Fresh off signing a much discussed contract extension, Corey Crawford came into the season looking to be a solid, consistent backstop to a puck possessing team. It’s inevitable that a goalie is going to spend his fair share in the attention crosshairs, and a goalie with new paper (even if it does not kick in until this upcoming year) gets a bulls-eye the size of a meteor on them.
Crawford started the year with a first class ticket on the struggle bus. His October and November were not particularly memorable. He has had early season yips in the past, so there was no need for alarm. The only real concern was usage, as there was not a plan B once Khabibulin returned to his home planet. The W’s still piled up, although aside from a late November stretch there were few games you could point to and say that Crawford made a definitive impact on the result. The fact that we weigh early season games as "less meaningful" could factor in here as well.
Following his comeback from an early December injury, Crow was outstanding. He appeared in 32 games with a .920 save percentage, a goals against barely above 2, and 2 shutouts. His play was a big reason it felt like chasing down St. Louis and Colorado was not impossible. Crawford has also grown to understand when he needs to be better. The quote unquote bounce back game has become part of his repertoire.
Crawford continued his trend of being a wall during the playoffs. The Blackhawks don’t get passed the first round without dynamic efforts like his 34 save shutout in game 3 or his game 5 performance on the road where he stood tall against a late effort from the Blues. Ditto closing out the Wild in the second round. His superb efforts in games 5
and 6 locked up the western conference finals appearance for the Blackhawks.
The Kings series did not go well as the torrid onslaught of the LA forwards was too much for Crow and the Blackhawks. As a whole though, Crawford turned in another sterling playoff performance. He faced nearly two more shots per game with only a slight dip in his numbers.
With the big paper set to kick in, the contract crosshairs will firmly be on Crawford by national and local media and meatballs. Due $6 million per over the next six, his cap hit puts him along side netminders like Ryan Miller, Kari Lehtonen, and Semyon Varlamov (his top 3 cap hit comparables according to cap geek). All of them are right there statistically with Varly slightly ahead in 5v5 Save % and Crow leading in GA/60. Suffice to say, Crow is going to get market value for a "just below the top guys" guy next year.
Expectations with Crawford should start with consistency. Ironing out some early season troubles might go a long way into silencing the Crawstink peanut gallery. He will get better as the season goes on and another solid playoff showing, which he has done every year save for 11-12, will mean another deep run for the Blackhawks.
Crawford gets a B.