2013 Blackhawks Report Cards : Corey Crawford

Today we look at everybody's favorite speech giver, goaltender Corey Crawford.

Standard Regular Season Stats

Goalie Stats Scoring Stats
30 19 5 5 57 769 712 0.926 1.94 3 1761 6 0 0 0 4

Standard Playoff Stats

Goalie Stats Scoring Stats
23 16 7 0 46 674 628 0.932 1.84 1 1504 0 0 0 0

I was one of many Blackhawks writers and fans who did not have much faith in Corey Crawford coming into the 2013 season. 2011-12 was not the kindest year to Crow, who shined in the 2011 playoffs versus the Vancouver Canucks. His sophomore season saw his goals against average go up .42 goals a game and his save percentage drop by .14% from his rookie year. Plus, nobody could erase the images of a pair of soft overtime goals given up in Games 3 and 4 versus the Phoenix Coyotes. The biggest question mark in Crawford's game, entering this year, was the makeup between his ears. A lot of people, myself included, questioned whether Crow had the mental toughness to be a #1 goaltender in the NHL. Crawford would go on to spend the entire season proving all of his doubters wrong.

Crow's year was not perfect by any means. He still gave up his share of "soft goals" and every time he did the Hawks world exploded with cries for Ray Emery. In the past, a goal from just inside the blue line would send Crawford into a tailspin. This year was the exact opposite, as every soft goal seemed to make Corey more focused and gain confidence. This was evident in the playoffs opener versus the Minnesota Wild. Crow let in the first shot he saw; a 41 foot wrist shot from Cal Clutterbuck, but responded by stopping the next 26 shots he saw in a 2-1 overtime win.

One of the running jokes during 2011-12 and start of the 2013 season was about the lack of shutouts by Hawks goaltenders. Crawford would put an end to those jokes on February 10th, with a shutout against the Nashville Predators. It was Crow's first regular season shutout since March 23, 2011 and was his first of three during the year.

Crawford stepped up his game in the playoffs and improved on his impressive numbers from the regular season. Crow was stellar throughout the playoffs including two overtime wins in the Stanley Cup Final. Crawford and his glove hand took some heavy hits after Game 4 of the Final, a game where he was the winning goalie! He responded by only giving up three goals in the final two games of the series. I still think Crawford should have won the Conn Smythe as he was the best player from start to finish during the Stanley Cup run.

I don't think it's any coincidence that both Crawford and Emery had spectacular seasons in the same year the Blackhawks' team defense improved as a whole. The Hawks, as a team, only allowed 26.2 shots per game in the regular season, 4th best in the league. This goes a long way in helping out your goaltender. Crow always seemed to return the favor with big saves after a rare defensive break down. Crow did show more confidence in the blue paint this year. Playing behind a great defense allows you to become more aggressive and come out of the crease more to cut down the angles. We saw a lot more of this from Crawford than we have in years past.

Crawford still has some things to improve on in his game. He still goes down too early at times and he needs to spend some time with Marty Turco to learn how to handle the puck correctly. Despite the few flaws, Corey Crawford finally became the goaltender Hawks brass and fans have been envisioning since he was drafted back in 2003. He has earned the right to start 60-70 games in 2013-14, as most true #1 goalies do. It will be interesting to see if Joel Quenneville can fight off every instinct in his body to cause a goalie controversy next year. I guess that will depend on the play of new back up net minder Nikolai Khabibulin.

Final Grade : A

How could I not include two of the greatest minutes in television history??