Jan 19, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) watches Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara (33) moves the puck during overtime at the United Center. The Blackhawks beat the Bruins 3-2 in the shootout. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Corey Crawford Days Until the Blackhawks Season Opener

Corey Crawford Days Until the Blackhawks Season Opener

We had so much fun doing our Countdown to Faceoff series last season that we decided to do it again.  In case you’re new to the series, we’ll do a roster preview as we count down the days until the Chicago Blackhawks  October 9th season opener against the Dallas Stars.

Without a doubt, the vast majority of Blackhawks fans will associate the number 50 with our #1 goalie, Corey Crawford. But let’s take a quick stroll down memory lane and run through a quick list of former Blackhawks who donned the same number:

  • Chris Clifford (G) – drafted by the Blackhawks in 1984 (111th overall), but only played two games (filled in once for Murray Bannerman in 1985 and once for Ed Belfour in 1989).
  • Ray LeBlanc (G) – only played in a single NHL game, but it was a successful one: on March 10, 1992, he only allowed one goal in a 5-1 win against the San Jose Sharks.
  • Christian Soucy (G) – appeared in three minutes of one game in the 1993-94 season.
  • Igor Radulov (LW) – drafted by the Blackhawks in 2000 (74th overall); played 43 games for the Blackhawks and had 16 points (9 G, 7 A). After the 2004-05 lockout, Radulov returned to Russia and currently plays for HC Atlant Moscow Oblast (KHL).

For now, the number 50 belongs to the man with a Jennings Trophy and Stanley Cup under his belt, as well as several seasons with the Blackhawks organization: Corey Crawford.

After a great (albeit shortened) season in 2013 that ended in a Stanley Cup victory, expectations for Crawford were high. And after he scored a sweet 6-year contract in the subsequent offseason, expectations were even higher. But consistency wasn’t exactly on his side this past season.

Nor was health, as he had to play more frequently in a shorter amount of time than the previous season, and then ended up being sidelined for a couple of months due to a groin injury. And since the expected backup goalie Nikolai Khabibulin was already out for the season due to an injury sustained the month before, rookie Antti Raanta got called up from Rockford to fill in (and did a remarkable job under the circumstances).

Crawford eventually returned to play the rest of the regular season and all of the playoff games. Although he didn’t quite manage to get back to his 2013 form, he was solid, and more often than not kept the Hawks in the playoffs.

No doubt that decisive goal in Game 7 of the Western Conference Final was a bitter pill to swallow – probably even more disappointing than the losses in the 2011 and 2012 playoffs combined, given how close the Blackhawks were to being the first team to win back-to-back Stanley Cup championships since 1998. Not to mention that the loss was sustained on home ice.

This season, the Hawks stand a good chance of bettering their own record – and matching that of the L.A. Kings – by winning two cups in three seasons if they manage to go all the way in the 2015 playoffs. Healthy and well-rested goalies are perhaps the most important pieces of that puzzle. As long as Crawford and Raanta are able to stay healthy and both play a reasonable number of games (even if not quite like the successful Crawford-Emery tandem of 2013), you might want to keep April and June open on your calendar for another strong Cup run.

Although he may not always be a fan favorite (depending on whether the Hawks are winning!) he is still hands-down the best #50 to have played for the Blackhawks to date.

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