Jun 15, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalieCorey Crawford
(50) and defenseman Johnny Oduya (27) celebrate after defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning in game six of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
No. 1: Crawford’s Year
This season, Corey Crawford is going to be a game-breaker.
In past years, many would have read that statement and laughed. Some still will, but anyone who watched Crawford in 2014-15, including during the Stanley Cup Final, knows there are even bigger things on the horizon for the goaltender.
If the NHL awarded the Conn Smythe in NBA fashion, to the Most Valuable Player of the league finals only, Crawford certainly would have walked off the ice with that hardware. After allowing three goals in the first period of the Blackhawks’ playoff run, and after he permitted six goals in Game 2 against Nashville, many doubted the 30-year-old’s ability to carry the Blackhawks and, subsequently, the Blackhawks’ Cup chances.
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But as he has before, Crawford ran with the next chance he was given and never looked back. After backup Scott Darling surrendered three goals of his own in the first period of Game 6 against the Predators, Crawford was back in the crease and didn’t let a puck past him in his 47 minutes of relief as the ‘Hawks erased the three-goal deficit and won the game and the series.
Twice on the way to the Stanley Cup Final, Crawford made 45-plus saves in a Blackhawks’ win: 60 in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals and 47 just four nights later.
Crawford has been bashed many times before, whether it be for his confidence, his glove hand or his mobility. Now, none of that seems to be the case. Crawford has been in the crease for two Stanley Cup victories in his career, and there’s plenty of road left to go down. With an offense like that of the Blackhawks, Crawford only had to be a so-so goaltender. This year, he will rise to elite status and the Blackhawks will be a hockey giant once again because of it.
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