The Chicago Blackhawks haven’t been the NHL’s biggest newsmakers so far in the 2014 off-season, but between the signing of free agent Brad Richards, and re-signing of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to monster identical contracts, it certainly hasn’t been a dry summer for the 2013 Stanley Cup Champs.
Through the half-way point of the summer, there is one Blackhawk in particular that is undoubtedly glad that his name has barely been uttered in the past seven weeks: starting goaltender Corey Crawford.
It’s certainly a change from the past two off-seasons for the Blackhawks number one netminder, after a 2012 off-season that saw some Blackhawks fans call for change after their second consecutive exit in the quarterfinals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. One year ago, it was his short, sweet speech at the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup parade that made headlines, followed by speculation that he wouldn’t be able to bring the Blackhawks another cup parade in the coming seasons.
He didn’t do that in 2013-14, but in no way was the Blackhawks’ failure to repeat as Champions on #50’s shoulders. Just one goal away from arguably, the Stanley Cup, the Los Angeles Kings’ Game Seven overtime goal by Alec Martinez deflected off defenseman Nick Leddy, and over Crawford’s shoulder. This was the case for most of the prior six games: it’s a big reason why the Kings went on to become Stanley Cup Champions.
Numbers-wise, there was a substantial drop in both Save Percentage and Goals Against Average compared to the 2013 shortened season (.917/.926 and 2.26/1.94 respectively), but Crawford was still among the league’s top ten goaltenders in Wins, despite an injury in October that saw him miss a solid stretch of the regular season.
Now that the Blackhawks’ second-string issue has been attended to with the signing of Antti Raanta, both goaltenders can buckle down and focus on the coming year. The Blackhawks will once again enter the season as the odds-on favourite to win the Stanley Cup, and with that lofty bar set, the pressure is back on #50 to perform. He does not need to be considered the best goaltender in the league; he wasn’t when the Blackhawks won the Cup in 2013. However, he’ll have to perform each and every night, and have the stamina to last a full 82-game season, as well as (hopefully) a lengthy playoff run.
There won’t be any doubters to motivate “Crow” this off-season, and that may be another challenge in itself. What Blackhawks fans can expect from Crawford, however, is for the goaltender to be one of the hardest working Blackhawks over the next 57 days, and be readier than ever when they take to the ice on October 9th.
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