- Corey Crawford
Games Played In: 30
Games Played In: 23
Contract Status: One year remaining, $2.5 million, pending UFA after season\
Summary: Corey Crawford came into the 2013 season with the weight of great expectations on his shoulders. In his second NHL season in 2011-2012, Crawford hit a slump, and was credited with many weak goals, leading to their first-round exit. Before the season even started, pro scouts were commenting on Crawford’s off-season work ethic being the best on the Blackhawks, as he got prepared to redeem himself as a starting goaltender in the NHL. His play showed it, and he quickly became one of the best goaltenders in the league in this past season. His positioning was great, and this allowed him to make a better first save and not give up a rebound in return. He appeared cool and collected in the net, and even after giving up a weak goal, he got back into the zone and played spectacular hockey for the rest of the game.
Crawford played with a focus and determination we had not seen from him before, and his stats showed, as he finished in the top five during both the regular season and playoffs in GAA and Save Percentage, leading all NHL goalies in post-season Goals Against Average. He made many highlight-reel saves, on some of the League`s elite scorers such as Jordan Eberle, Henrik Zetterberg, and most notably, a Glen Hall-esque save on Pierre-Marc Bouchard early in the season.
Despite his consistent good play, he was still doubted by many as one of the league`s best goalies. He has proven all doubters wrong now, collecting his first Stanley Cup as a starting goaltender, and almost picking up the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP, something that winner Patrick Kane said deserved to go to the netminder instead of him.
Looking in to the future, it will have to be more of the same for Crawford. The questions have shifted from elevating his play, to consistently playing at his level. If he does so, he will be in the conversation with goalies such as Henrik Lundqvist, Craig Anderson, and Jonathan Quick.
Grade: It`s an easy one to make this year. Crawford put his name among the leagues best in 2013, and he deserves an A+ for the season.
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