Both the Chicago Blackhawks and the Boston Bruins have won Stanley Cups in the past three years. Neither of them were won with their respective goaltenders, Corey Crawford and Tuukka Rask at the helm. Although the Stanley Cup Finals are somewhat familiar territory for most of the Blackhawks and Bruins, this Finals series will be uncharted waters for Crawford and Rask.
Rask, who was actually the backup to Tim Thomas, when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011, emerged as a solid net-minder in 2013, his first as the number one goaltender. During the regular season, Rask had a win/loss record of 19-10-5, with a very good Goals Against Average of 2.00, and an outstanding save percentage of .929%. During the postseason, Rask may have put himself in consderation for the Conn Smythe Award, with 12-4 record, a 1.75 GAA, and a .943 Save percentage. The Blackhawks may prove to be quite a challenge for Rask, even though he completely shutdown the supreme offensive firepower of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Blackhawks found a way to solve last year’s Conn Smythe Award winner, Jonathan Quick, so it will be interesting to see what happens. Rask has stepped out of the shadow of Tim Thomas in a big way, but the Stanley Cup Finals will be a test like no other.
Corey Crawford’s 2013 campaign has drawn many parallels to Tu
ukka Rask’s. Like Rask, 2013 was a huge proving year for Crawford, but unlike Rask, this was Crawford’s 3rd season as the Blackhawks number one goaltender, but he had just as much to prove, if not more, than Rask this season. Fans in Chicago had developed many doubts about Crawford, after a sophomore slump season, and lackluster post-season in 2011-2012. This season however, Crawford silenced the doubters, in a big way. Crawford had an excellent record of 19-5-5, an outstanding GAA of 1.94, and a marvelous Save Percentage of .926%. Crawford kept up his elite play in the post-season, with 12-5-1 record, a league leading 1.74 GAA, and a .935% Save Percentage. The remarkable statistics also include helping the Hawks comeback from a 3-1 series deficit to the Detroit Red Wings. Crawford has been known to let in a soft goal, every now and then, but the statistics more than speak for themselves. Like Rask, the Stanley Cup Finals is uncharted territory for Crawford, and it will be interesting to see if he can continue his elite play that has also put him in the Conn Smythe conversation.
Rask and Crawford are almost in mirrored situations of each other. Both proved themselves to the hockey world in 2013, with outstanding seasons and post-seasons. Both are net-minding for teams that are familiar with the pressures of the Stanley Cup Finals, while they themselves have never truly experienced the spot-light that comes with it. Both have had superb post-seasons, and are in the Conn Smythe Award conversation. One x-factor will be the fact that neither team has faced the opposing team or goaltender this season, so it will be nearly impossible to predict how each team/goaltender will fare, in this series. If both goaltenders continue their play that has made them the newest members of the elite goaltenders club in the NHL, this should be a low-scoring series. Stay tuned, it should be interesting.