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Chicago Blackhawks’ Grades: Corey Crawford Takes Top Honors

By Colin Likas
Apr 23, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (right) is congratulated by defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (left) following the conclusion of the third period in game six of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the St. Louis Blues at the United Center. Chicago won 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 23, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (right) is congratulated by defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (left) following the conclusion of the third period in game six of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the St. Louis Blues at the United Center. Chicago won 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /
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Chicago Blackhawks Grades Start With Corey Crawford

Now that the Chicago Blackhawks’ 2015-16 season has officially come to a close, it’s time to look at how each individual player who suited up in the Indian Head fared during the campaign. This feature will grade out each Blackhawk from the season, including those who were with the team for just a few games. Those who weren’t around as long might not get their own individual posts, but everyone will get his day in court.

There’s really no better place to start with this season’s grades than goaltender Corey Crawford. He had a career regular season despite a constantly wilting defense in front of him, and he carried the team through large stretches of the regular season. He tried to do the same in the postseason, but too many odd-man rushes and uncovered St. Louis Blues finally took their toll on Crow. So, let’s get to the grading.

chicago blackhawks
Apr 25, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) makes a save in the game against the St. Louis Blues during the second period in game seven of the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

2015-16 regular-season stats: 58 starts, 35-18-5, 7 shutouts, .924 save percentage, 2.37 goals-allowed average

2016 postseason stats: 7 starts, 3-4-1, 0 shutouts, .907 save percentage, 2.54 goals-allowed average

Positives: The regular season was almost entirely a positive for Crow, as he was on his game night in and night out. His .924 save percentage matches his career best for a non-lockout season, his 35 wins were a career high and the seven whitewashes were a career best, as well as a league high for the season. But it goes deeper than that.

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Hockey-reference.com has a goaltender statistic titled “Quality Starts.” A goaltender can receive a QS by recording a save percentage greater than his average save percentage for the season, or by recording a save percentage better than .885 on nights in which he faced 20 or fewer shots on goal. In 58 starts (also a career high), Crow recorded 40 Quality Starts. So that’s really good, especially on a team that had a “meh” defense, to say the least, and one that went through stretches of offensive impotence (i.e. only Patrick Kane was scoring).

There’s more. Hockey-reference also makes mention of “Goalie Point Shares,” which estimates the number of points a team earned due to its goaltender’s play. Crow is estimated to have earned the Blackhawks 12 points this season, a career high for him. Without 12 points, the Blackhawks would have finished in the first wild-card spot, drawing a trip out West for the playoffs’ first round.

Now, all these numbers need to be put into context as well. Crawford not only was starting night in and night out behind a really suspect defense, but he was also injured for about a month toward the end of the regular season. He still managed his career high in starts at 58, but he was behind those like Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick (68 starts), Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk (67) and Washington’s Braden Holtby (66), among others. And yet, Crow finished 10th among all goaltenders in shots faced per game.

So, how did Crow rank in shots faced per 60 minutes and his success in stopping them among the 10 goaltenders who faced the most shots this regular season?

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From war-on-ice.com /

So only Ottawa’s Craig Anderson was seeing more shots than Crow, while the Blackhawks goaltender posted the highest adjusted save percentage among the group. If you really want to lay on heavily the Crawford hate, you could argue the high adjusted save percentage is partially a product of him making fewer starts than all these guys (by virtue of being injured), but he only made two fewer starts than Anderson and 10 fewer than league leader Quick. There’s an outside chance Crow could’ve led the league in starts had he been healthy all the way through, and his numbers still would’ve been otherworldly. There’s nothing to suggest otherwise.

So the Blackhawks and their fans can basically thank Crow (and Kane, of course) for giving the team a shot at winning the Central Division with three games to go. Because the Blackhawks certainly wouldn’t have been in that realm otherwise.

Negatives: Well, he got hurt. That’s obviously not his fault, so you can’t count it against him.

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Of course, everyone who wants Crow to be shipped out of town on a burning parade float will point to the postseason numbers, which admittedly aren’t sexy.

But what can you honestly expect the guy to do, at a certain point? He had pucks bouncing off opposing players, he was screened by his own players and sometimes he was left all alone in his net with a Blues player. That’s how the series-winning goal was scored by Troy Brouwer last night. It’s how Patrik Berglund scored in Game 4.

Was Crow as strong in the postseason as he was in the regular season? No, but given the playoffs are a ramped-up experience and the Blues came out playing like their jobs depended on it (somewhat true) in each game, the end result isn’t surprising. Not even Holtby would’ve stood up very well to the barrage the Blues kept bringing. This is a case in which eyes work better than numbers. If you watched the postseason games, you saw Crow keep the Blackhawks in more situations than you saw him play them toward a defeat.

Oh, and he also had just one assist and two penalty minutes in the regular season. For shame.

Next: Blackhawks-Blues Playoffs Series Recap

Grade: A. If there was a grade between A+ and A, Crow would get it. (Admittedly, no one is getting an A+ from me, not even Crow or Kane. Maybe someone else on the Blackhawk Up staff will do Kane’s grade.) He’s one of the few reasons the Blackhawks looked like a team that could actually repeat as Stanley Cup champions when, in reality, the outfit was mostly tired and full of holes.

While Crow isn’t going to get much appreciation from a portion of the fan base, I’d like to take this space to thank him for his contributions this season. He made the season much more enjoyable and tolerable than it probably should’ve been.

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