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Chicago Blackhawks Vs. St. Louis Blues A Goaltending Battle

mikbre88
Apr 17, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) makes a save on a shot from St. Louis Blues defenseman Carl Gunnarsson (4) during the second period in game three of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 17, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) makes a save on a shot from St. Louis Blues defenseman Carl Gunnarsson (4) during the second period in game three of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /
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Impressive Goaltenders Star In Series

Coming into this year’s first-round Stanley Cup Playoffs series with the St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks fans knew this would be quite ugly. Both sides knew players would be plastered to the boards, and goals would only really come from ugly battles in front of the net. Through three games of the gut-wrenching series, those have all lived up to their expectations.

While some goals have been pretty snipes, others have come from players working hard deep in their offensive zone and badda bing, badda boom, the puck finds its way to the back of the net. While the defenses for both teams have stepped up a lot, the best players on both teams have been the men between the pipes.

Starting with Brian Elliott for the Blues, he has been stellar. First of all, for the whole regular season, he split time with Jake Allen. Elliott only started 41 games and posted a .930 save percentage and a 2.07 goals-against average. Through the first three games of this series, Elliott has let in four goals and has a .963 save percentage, which ranks third in the NHL for playoff goaltenders.

Elliott has easily been the better goaltender of the series as well. Half of the goals were shots that came from good plays and half were from ‘Hawks players working in front of the net. Either way, he has been able to neutralize  the ‘Hawks hot offense. While

Corey Crawford

has made some better highlight type saves, Elliott has been way more consistent. While the Blues defense has been fantastic, Elliott has been the anchor to bail out players like

Kevin Shattenkirk

and

Alex Pietrangelo

consistently through these three games.

Those highlights are from Game 1, Elliott’s best game so far, and they make me cringe while watching them. Players like Artem Anisimov, Patrick Kane and others who usually finish when they have an open shot were just stoned by a goaltender who has gotten hot at the right time. If the ‘Hawks want to defeat the Blues, they will need to cool down Elliott just like they have done to Roberto Luongo and Jonathan Quick in the past.

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Now on the other side we have Crawford. Like we did with Elliott, let’s take a look at his regular season, in case you have been living under a rock. Through 58 games played, Crawford (35-18-5) had a .924 save percentage with a 2.37 goals-against average. He had seven shutouts all season, his career high, and pretty much matched his career high for save percentage (.926 in 2013). Through this series, Crawford has made some unbelievable saves that made the Scottrade Center and the United Center crowds jump to their feet.

This huge glove save by Crawford in Game 3 is among them. Let’s flash back a couple years. In series with the Kings or the Predators, we saw skilled players exploit the fact Crawford may have had cement in his glove. Not now. Not in 2016. Along with the glove, he has been strong in the crease by not giving up ice space in scrums in front of the net like this one below.

His stats through these three games have been a bit misleading, in my opinion. He has let up six goals so far and has posted a .929 save percentage on 85 shot attempts. That save percentage puts him in the middle of the road in terms of other goalies’ save percentages through the playoffs so far. These numbers are very misleading considering the task Crawford is asked to handle.

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He has to play goalie on a playoff team that basically only has three competent defensemen. All the others are terrible at taking the puck away and stopping chances, and Crawford is left as the last line of defense. Of the six goals, I counted two of them that Crawford could have made a save on. The slapshot from Colton Parayko in Game 3 needs to be stopped as it was just a hard slapper that snuck in short side.

The only other goal that I can blame Crawford was the game-winning goal in Game 3. There was some smooth passing from the Blues on the powerplay and Jaden Schwartz ultimately put it past Crow. I thought Crawford was way out of position and lost his footing a little bit. The other four goals are either because of weird bounces with zero chance of predicting or saving, or the result from horrific defensive play.

I have been one of the biggest Crawford haters through my life, but I am all on board with Crow right now. It is the first time in a while where I actually feel confident with the man between the pipes. If Crawford continues to play like he has been playing, the ‘Hawks will be in a fantastic position to take the series.

Also while I have the floor about the series, can we talk about how bad TVR has been? He has averaged 24:44 minutes through these games and has a plus/minus rating of minus-3 **puking sound**. The Blues are not at all known for offensive firepower, and TVR is making them look like the Washington Capitals. Players flying by him at the blue line and him not being able to take the puck away have been the norm this series.

Next: These Blackhawks Not Same As Past Teams

I keep having flashbacks to when Chris Campoli was on the blue line for the ‘Hawks. But you know what the ‘Hawks did with Campoli after he single-handedly lost Game 7 of the 2011 Western Conference quarterfinals? They dumped him and moved on. I pray that TVR will have a similar fate.

As for the rest of the team, I am really not worried. The ‘Hawks have been able to outplay the Blues for most of the series, and I believe that it could easily be 3-0 ‘Hawks. Since 2009, the ‘Hawks are 6-14 in Game 3s and have won 11 of those series. The ‘Hawks are always garbage in Game 3, and if the ‘Hawks win Game 4, this series is in a very good position for the ‘Hawks to take. Game four is Tuesday night at 8:30 on NBCSN. Hopefully Doc Emrick is on the call. Go ‘Hawks!

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