Corey Crawford Deserves Some Love After Game 5 Win
At the end of Thursday’s fifth Stanley Cup Playoffs first-round series game between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues, it seemed some Blackhawks fans were angry at goaltender Corey Crawford. Never mind he stopped 43 of 46 shots and pretty much carried a lifeless group through the first overtime period. He had let in a soft goal earlier in the game, and that just could not stand.
Now, if you were upset with Crow after he did much of the carrying in the critical 4-3 double-overtime victory, hopefully you were also upset about the horrid defense in front of the goaltender, leading to Robby Fabbri‘s goal. Or the continued poor defense which led to David Backes‘ game-tying marker late in the third.
But those who get mad at Crow tend to put on the blinders when it comes to anything else. So let’s break down last night’s performance from the goaltender and see why that might be just a little bit more than silly.
We’ll start with Jaden Schwartz‘s second-period goal, because it’s definitely one Crow should stop, and one I’m guessing he’d tell you he has to stop. Schwartz streaked up the wing to Crow’s right fired a hard, low shot from above the circle, beating Crow right under his armpit on the far side. As Jamal Mayers helpfully pointed out on the postgame show, Crow was too deep in his net on Schwartz’s attempt, meaning he wasn’t able to come out and cut down on the angle of the shot.
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This almost certainly would’ve led to him soaking it up or deflecting it harmlessly to the boards, as Schwartz had no real help behind.
But it went through just less than a minute after Marian Hossa had put the Blackhawks ahead 1-0 with a shorthanded goal. It was a Blues powerplay goal, but definitely one Crow could’ve stopped.
Now, while a younger version of Crow might’ve cracked and struggled the rest of this game, he really stepped up to the plate instead. The first period saw just 10 shots between the two sides, with Crow only facing six. Neither he nor Brian Elliott let a puck through. But things really ramped up after that, especially for Crow.
While the Blackhawks managed a nice 13 shots in the second period — they pushed with the long change — they had that many shots on net combined over the third and fourth periods. The Blues meanwhile were consistent and persistent, sending 39 shots at Crow across periods two, three and four. That included seven man-advantage attempts. The Blackhawks, in that same stretch, had one powerplay shot and two shorthanded attempts (one of which found twine).
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And the only goals Crow gave up across those 39 shots in the middle three periods were one weak goal, one deflection and one tough attempt created by his defense taking a nap. Speaking of which, that was a theme all night, and it made Crow’s performance much more impressive. Especially in the third period and first overtime, the Blackhawks defense let the Blues have their blue line with no pressure whatsoever. St. Louis was essentially able to set up shop whenever and however it wanted in that first overtime while the Blackhawks tried not to keel over. Thankfully, Crow wasn’t keeling over.
For a better idea of the quality of attempts Crow was facing as the game clock wound down, we can look to war-on-ice.com. In the second period, Crow faced nine attempts from medium- or high-danger areas, allowing only Schwartz’s goal (which was considered medium-danger). Elliott wasn’t far behind with eight shots against him from those same areas. But one big thing here is Crow faced six high-danger bids in the second period alone, while Elliott saw three — and those were the only three high-danger scoring chances war-on-ice recorded for the Blackhawks until Patrick Kane‘s game winner in the second overtime.
The third period saw Crow face five shots from medium- or high-danger areas, while Elliott had a whopping one. And in the first overtime, Crow duplicated that five number while Elliott’s total budged to two. When all was said and done, Crow had allowed two medium-danger goals on 11 attempts and one-high danger goal on nine attempts. Elliott permitted all three of the high-danger chances he faced to find twine while also allowing one medium-danger goal on 11 tries.
A lot of the talk after this game was how Kane had saved the Blackhawks’ season, or at least extended it another day. And that’s a fair thing to say. He pretty much took over a shift and came up huge to secure the winning goal, even after he admitted to playing poorly earlier in the game. But it would be really unfair to saw Crow didn’t also play a gigantic role in the Blackhawks getting to that point, even if he did allow an iffy goal. Sure, he let Schwartz’s shot find the net, but what about all the better attempts he shut down to keep the Blackhawks from losing in regulation?
If you go back and watch a highlights package from Thursday’s game, there’s no doubt some huge saves from Crow will be among it. He’s had to be like this for large swathes of the series, too, as the Blackhawks defense has mostly bumbled and stumbled in its own zone. So let’s give some credit where it’s due.