Corey Crawford finally proved to everyone that he is of elite caliber as an NHL goaltender in 2013, and he has done nothing to change that thus far in 2013-14. Besides keeping the Chicago Blackhawks in the game every time he appears between the pipes, his stats line show a goalie ready for another successful season. However, there is one stat that is concerning Blackhawks fans: his Minutes Played.
That number is 1,249, a number that puts him in second among NHL goalies, (Roberto Luongo is first). If Crawford plays Monday Night against the Edmonton Oilers, that will make it 15 straight games that #50 has appeared in. Those minutes don’t seem like a big deal right now, as Crawford leads the league in wins, but it could be a huge issue down the road. Crawford continues to pull off impressive performances, like that in Vancouver on Saturday night, but the Blackhawks could be in big trouble come March.
Crawford is not only the biggest link in the Blackhawks’ chain, but is competing for a roster spot on Team Canada for the Olympics. Being burnt out by February 8th would be a huge blow to the 28-year old who has worked tirelessly to perform at the high level he does today.
Blackhawks’ Head Coach Joel Quenneville said it himself: “It wasn’t supposed to happen this way”. Granted, the Blackhawks expected more from back-up Nikolai Khabibulin when he did play, and now that he is out for at least 8 more games, and rookie goalie Antti Raanta is in his place, even more pressure has been piled on Crawford’s shoulders.
Quenneville could also be to blame for the development of this issue, as he has had opportunities to rest the starter. He will have another one in Edmonton tonight, against the league’s worst team, and if he does not give Raanta his first career NHL start, Blackhawks fans can really start to worry. Coach Q’s short-term decisions will affect Crawford’s long-term health, so a night or two off soon will be huge. With the NHL’s best offense in front of him, pulling the trigger on a move like that shouldn’t be hard to do.
Crawford’s minutes won’t be a factor until his performance slips. With his most recent performance coming in as a 36-save spectacle, it is only a footnote for now. However, Blackhawks fans have seen flashes of what could happen, such as ‘Crow’ being pulled after allowing 3 goals on his first 7 shots faced in Colorado. However, as long as Chicago stays at the top of the leaderboard, Crawford can hang out there too.
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