In saving 29 of 31 shots in the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 win over the St. Louis Blues last night, Corey Crawford put himself in some exclusive company. The Chicago goaltender is now the franchise leader in postseason wins with 46 as he surpassed Tony Esposito's former record with the Game 2 win.
Crawford has vaulted himself into some exclusive hallowed company with his and the team's performances in the postseason in his career.
Crawford's 46 postseason wins record leads a Blackhawks list of goaltenders with no shortage of big names. It's a steep drop off after Crawford and Esposito's 45 wins in second place. Ed Belfour comes in third with 35 wins, Glenn Hall has 31 in fourth, and Murray Bannerman rounds out the top five with 20 playoff victories.
In Crawford's ongoing playoff success, he has a save percentage of .921% to go with a 2.21 goals allowed on average. If not for a down year below .900% against Arizona in the playoffs, those numbers are significantly higher, as it isn't indicative of how great he's been for Chicago overall. In the last two Hawks Stanley Cup victories for example, Crawford has had a sparkling save percentage above .930%. Most agreed, Patrick Kane included, that Crawford should have won the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP in the 2012-2013 season. Last season, with a fantastic .924 mark, Crawford would have likely finally captured his first career Conn Smythe if not for an iron man performance by Duncan Keith.
The Blackhawks' star goaltender's success is not only a testament to the team's ongoing success on the ice but also to his resilience and overall talent. What has made Crawford so successful in his time here is how he's been able to respond to adversity.
Last year for example, after a less than ample performance in the first round against Nashville where he was benched, Crawford retained his starting role for the remaining three rounds and was just an absolute lynchpin. Coming into this postseason, he had played just one game in the last month of this year, and has shown no signs of rust that would have been understood. He has arguably been Chicago's best player with a .939 save percentage in two games in a hostile road environment. I said before the postseason started that Crawford likely needed to have an MVP level performance consistently this spring if Chicago was to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. Needless to say, he's well on track for that.
The Blackhawks have come to see that they know they can trust their man between the pipes with him seeming to relish the opportunity to sometimes steal not just individual games, but entire postseason series. It's almost as if Crawford uses all of the constant critics and narratives we somehow still see mull around him as motivation to excel at the highest levels. At any rate, anyone who still criticizes Crawford is just outright ignoring the excellent product and resolve that's now on display on a regular basis.
No matter how cliche it sounds, Crawford has proven time and again that he responds best when his back is up against the wall. So by all means, continue to doubt him.
I get the feeling we'll just see more championships and more records being broken.
Robert Zeglinski is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.