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Chicago Blackhawks: Corey Crawford In Spotlight Without Duncan Keith

By Andrew Facemyer

As we all heard Tuesday, the Chicago Blackhawks will be without 2015 Conn Smythe winner Duncan Keith for the next 4-6 weeks due to knee surgery. We could go on and on about which of the ’Hawks’ defensemen will replace Keith, but it won’t all be on the defense. The importance of Keith to this team cannot be understated, and it will take an entire team effort on both ends of the ice to survive without him.

So, who does that push furthest into the spotlight? Jonathan Toews? Brent Seabrook? It’s actually neither of them. Corey Crawford may have just been thrown into a spotlight that he wants no part of.

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Crawford has just lost the most-talented blueliner he’s ever had the privilege of playing behind. Now, every aspect of Crawford’s game will be tested. We can all be sure that every team in the NHL has noticed the lack of solid defensive play the ’Hawks’ blue line has put forth this season, and now, all they see is Swiss cheese.

Crawford will have to deal with more-frequent and high-quality scoring chances. Opposing teams can afford to be more aggressive with the ’Hawks’ blueline in the shape it is, and their defensemen can afford to cheat up much more than they were able to previously. This all spells bad news for the ‘Hawks, and Crawford will have to deliver if he wants to give his team a chance to get away with a win each night.

But haven’t we always been able to count on Crawford? Yes, in our most recent memory. He had an awful series against the Nashville Predators in the most-recent postseason, but if you look at his past, the Preds tend to do very well when he’s between the pipes. Crawford was 2-3-0 over the past two seasons against the Preds leading up to that series, so his performance wasn’t exactly shocking. Looking past that, Crawford was beyond solid in his return to the postseason with a save percentage of .932. That’s putting him into the Carey Price realm. That is when your team has a chance to win day in and day out.

Every aspect of his game will be tested. Regardless of your opinion of Crawford, there is no denying the quality of play he is able to deliver. Lest we forget, Crawford is a two-time Stanley Cup champ and was even robbed blind of the Conn Smythe in 2013. Based on his teammates’ play so far this season, they will need that type of play out of him to effectively survive the next 4-6 weeks.

Next: 5 Reasons Blackhawks Don't Need To Make A Blue-Line Trade

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