Chicago Blackhawks: Corey Crawford, An Inside Look

By Gail Kauchak

Jun 13, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) in goal in the second period game five of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

A few weeks ago we took a look at a very important member of the Chicago Blackhawks in defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson.  Now I believe it’s time to show some love to the very last line of defense, namely netminder Corey Crawford. Depending on who you ask, “Crow” is either an elite goaltender, or just the recipient of an excellent defense and a great team. But no matter your opinion, Crawford has won two Stanley Cups, and looks to be the starting goaltender for the Chicago Blackhawks this coming season. He certainly deserves a closer look.

At 30 years of age, Crawford could be considered one of the veterans on the team. He’s also been the starting Blackhawks goalie since the 2010-11 season, when he beat out Marty Turco for the job. The Blackhawks were coming off of a Stanley-Cup-winning run, and cap restraints had forced the ’Hawks to deal then-goaltender Antti Niemi to the San Jose Sharks the summer before.

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Originally, Turco was the starter and Crawford the back-up, but Crawford’s performance snuck him into the top spot. He had a 176:09 minute shutout streak from Jan. 7-15. Then from Feb. 20 through March 5, he had an eight-game win streak. This set a record for the longest streak for a rookie, and was one game short of the team record set by Glenn Hall.  The Blackhawks ended up losing in the first round of the playoffs to the President’s-Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks. But Crawford was later named to the NHL All-Star Rookie Team.

Crawford definitely had to put in his time before he got this starting gig in the NHL. Hailing from Montreal, Canada, Crawford played for the Midget AAA Gatineau Intrepides in pre-juniors before spending four seasons (2001-05) with the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. With the Wildcats, he recorded a number of records. He still currently holds the record for the lowest goals-against average, which was 2.47 in his 2004-05 season. He also had the most wins (35 in his 2003-04 season) and is tied with Simon Lajeunesse for the most shutouts in a season (six in 2004-05). Crawford was named to the QMJHL’s Second All-Star team two times (in 2004 and 2005).

Crawford was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2003 in the second round, 52nd overall. He was the second goaltender to be chosen in that draft year. After his time with the Wildcats, he moved into the American Hockey League. He played for two years (2005-07) with the Norfolk Admirals, and then three more years (2007-2010) with the Rockford IceHogs before his impressive rookie season referred to above.

After his rookie season, the Chicago Blackhawks signed Crawford to a three-year, $8 million contract extension. But like many players, Crawford had what many people refer to as a “sophomore slump.” In the 2011-12 season, he wasn’t as consistent, and was often benched in favor of backup goalie Ray Emery. Crawford’s GAA was 2.72, and his SV% was .903 for the season (compared to 2.30 and .917 the previous year).  Even so, he did pull it together and went 8-1-2 in his last 11 games of the season to again solidify himself as the starting goaltender.

Crawford’s most recent three years have also been pretty impressive. He capped off two of those seasons with a Stanley Cup, and the other one with a trip to the Western Conference finals in a series that went seven games (a loss to the L.A. Kings). In the lockout-shortened season of 2012-13, Crow had a GAA of 1.94 and a SV% of .926. This is also the year he was awarded the Jennings Trophy along with Emery. In 2015, he also shared the honor of winning the Jennings Trophy along with Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens, on top of being voted by the fans to play in the NHL All-Star game.

In September of 2013, Crawford was signed to a six-year, $36 million contract extension that runs through the 2019-20 season.  At $6 million a year, this makes him the sixth-highest paid starting goaltender in the NHL.

So it appears he will be around for a while. His latest competition in the crease is backup goaltender Scott Darling. As you may recall, Crawford was relieved by Darling in Game 1 (vs. the Nashville Predators) of the first round of the 2015 playoffs after he allowed three goals in the first period. Coach Joel Quenneville stuck with Darling until Game 6 of that series, when a similar situation with Darling put Crawford back in the net for the remainder of the playoffs.

This must have been a very difficult thing for Crawford. Hockey is such a mental game, and to be usurped in the playoffs can really shake a man’s confidence. But Crawford stayed focused, practiced hard and proved himself when he got his chance again. Just like before with Ray Emery, he bounced back and reclaimed his starting job.

Crawford is mostly criticized for letting in too many soft goals. But one talent he does have is his ability to not linger on a bad goal. He has a habit of bobbing his head, presumably to shake it off and move on. Especially since his most recent playoff benching, he seems to come back even stronger and more aggressive.

Let’s move on to some fun tidbits about our Chicago Blackhawks starting goaltender. Now we all know Crawford has a way with words. At Stanley Cup parades, he has a propensity towards swearing. That was at the most recent 2015 parade. Here’s the 2013 version. If you watch any of his post-game interviews, Crawford is always very serious and deadpan. It seems rather boring at first, but if you can stick it out, he usually has some pretty spot-on things to say. He appears to have a good pulse on the state of the team.

On the ice, Crow has no hesitation when it comes to defending his ground. In last year’s Western Conference finals, things got very heated between the Chicago Blackhawks and the L.A. Kings. Here’s what happened when Crawford wasn’t happy with opposing goaltender Jonathan Quick.

Let’s wrap things up with some Corey Crawford high-lights. Enjoy everyone!

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