May 30, 2015; Anaheim, CA, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) makes a save against the Anaheim Ducks in the first period in game seven of the Western Conference Final of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Crow is better than Bishop. Time to have some fun. You’ll recall the Stanley Cup Finals experience we talked about earlier. Here’s why it’s especially important with goaltenders: They’re the last line of defense before your team is down 18-0 on the scoreboard. Crow has proven he can do his part in net on hockey’s greatest stage, posting a .925 save percentage against Boston in the 2013 Finals. Bishop is in the midst of his first playoff run, and he doesn’t have anything of that level to display. So you have to give a quick advantage to the ’Hawks in net.
Looking at these Stanley Cup playoffs, the goaltenders have some similar numbers. Both have been pulled a couple times, though Crow hasn’t seen that occur since the Nashville series. Bishop was pulled once against both Montreal and New York, so his struggles are more recent. That reflects in the save percentages as well. While Bishop posted a .940 save percentage against the Canadiens (who have few consistent offensive threats outside Max Pacioretty), he dipped all the way down to .902 against the Rangers. New York scored five or more goals three times in the Eastern Conference finals, including seven in Game 6. And all three of these instances came in Tampa Bay. Crow, meanwhile, permitted five goals just once against Anaheim — in the Game 5 overtime affair on the road — and settled into a .920 save percentage over seven games. Bishop has shown he’s capable of stealing games and tossing a shutout, as he did in the clincher against New York. But right now, Crow appears the more stable option in net, especially with a more capable and experienced defense in front of him.
The ’Hawks know they have an open window. Look, the will-to-win crap that Ryan Kesler and maybe a few others believe in, it’s not what leads one team over the other in the Stanley Cup Finals. It’d be crazy to say either Chicago or Tampa wants a world championship more than the other. But there’s a different level to the idea that doesn’t have so much to do with desire as a realization of what’s on the table. The ’Hawks are nearing an offseason where the salary cap is again going to crunch the team. It took a late trade of Nick Leddy (miss you) to even get the ’Hawks under the cap for the start of this season. With new deals due for Saad and Marcus Kruger, issues will again rise. So Chicago knows it has a golden opportunity to secure one more Cup with the extended core before things probably change once again. It’s just an extra motivator versus actual desire. Both teams desire to be champions. But Tampa doesn’t have this looming cap issue. Many of their star players are young and still under team-favorable contracts beyond this season. Frankly, this team should be a terror in the East well beyond this season, and the Bolts likely know that. You can’t go into the Stanley Cup Finals thinking, “We’ll have more shots at this, so it’s OK if we don’t win it this year.” But that extra motivation caused by impending change doesn’t exist for Tampa like it does for Chicago. And when you give a team with extraordinary talent, ability and hockey sense like the ’Hawks some extra motivation, you’re creating a team that won’t be beaten, regardless of who the opponent is.
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