Chicago Blackhawks Relying On Streaky Crawford To Deliver Cup

By Skylar Peters

As always in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a team’s success usually weighs heavily upon one player: the goaltender.

This year, it is no different. However, the two teams battling for Lord Stanley have seen both the best, and the worst, from their net-minder this spring.

Just two games before the Tampa Bay Lightning became Eastern Conference Champions, and punched their ticket to the Final, Ben Bishop was pulled after allowing 6 goals. Andrei Vasilevskiy played in relief, in his first Stanley Cup Playoff action of his career.

Bishop bounced back in a big way, recording a shutout in Game Seven, on the road in New York. He extended his streak to nearly two full games, until Teuvo Teravainen’s stopped the streak at 113:28.

Bishop’s streakiness shouldn’t surprise their Final opponents, the Chicago Blackhawks: it’s almost a carbon-copy of what happened to them, in the first game of the Playoffs.

Corey Crawford didn’t come out to start the second period of Game One against the Nashville Predators, after allowing three goals in the first frame. Instead, Scott Darling went in-between the pipes, and helped deliver a come-back win in his first playoff action.

Darling became the Blackhawks’ starter, though he eventually faced the same fate as Crawford, getting pulled in Game Five of the same series.

Since then, Crawford has left no doubt as to who should be the ‘Hawks starter, with only three losses in the 12 games since replacing Darling in Game Five.

Though each team’s goaltender has had a similar spring thus far, Crawford and Bishop offer two different pedigrees.

Bishop has been one of the NHL’s best regular-season goaltenders over the past three years, usually ranking among the top five in Goals Against Average, and save percentage.

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Crawford’s stats may not be as polarizing, but on as good of a team as the Chicago Blackhawks are, he is the exact goaltender they need.

The Blackhawks have bucked the trend of superstar goalies delivering Stanley Cups, in both of their championship seasons. Both Antti Niemi and Crawford were not regarded as the League’s elite net-minders in their championship seasons, but delivered solid playoff runs down the stretch.

Crawford and Bishop both showed their good sides in Game One of the final, though Crawford gained the early edge with the win, and 22 saves over Bishop’s 19.

Crawford is now three wins away from his second Stanley Cup; Bishop is searching for his first ring, on a Lightning team that has potential to go on a Blackhawks-esque run of success over the next several years.

What unfolds over the next few days will be directly due to each team’s respective backstop. Both have proven more than capable to win a Stanley Cup in the past. However, it will depend what version of Corey Crawford and Ben Bishop show up between the pipes on Saturday night, and onward through the Final.

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