5. Crawford Playing With Something To Prove
Finally, all good lists need a strong ending like all good NHL teams need a strong last line of defense in their goalie. The Blackhawks have one of the best and most underrated in the game today in Corey Crawford. One might ask, “How can a two-time Stanley Cup winning goalie be underrated?”
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Well, it’s simple.
- Crawford had better statistics at the NHL All-Star break in 2016, yet was out-voted in the Central Division for Pekka Rinne and Devan Dubnyk.
- Crawford had better statistics at the end of the 2015-16 season, yet was left off of the finalist list for the Vezina Trophy in favor of Jonathan Quick and Ben Bishop. (Roberto Luongo also finished ahead of Crawford.)
- Blackhawks fans have called for a replacement to Crawford on a consistent basis ever since he took over the regular starting job in 2011. Even after winning Stanley Cups in 2013 and 2015.
Such is the life of an NHL goaltender, right?
But given all the flak that Crawford has had to endure during his time in net for the Blackhawks, he still is consistently one of the top performers at his position in the league, and every bit of respect he does get, he earns.
The 2016-17 season could be the biggest “show me” season for a player of Crawford’s caliber. Really, it’s less of a “show me” season and more of an “I’ll show you” season in Crawford’s skates.
Having a contract through 2019-20 at $6 million per season, outside of Kane, Seabrook, Keith and Jonathan Toews, Crawford is the highest-paid and longest-tenured Blackhawk. The organization has given him the vote of confidence, and the fans, for the most part, have too. It’s the rest of the NHL and the rest of hockey fans that Crawford can show just why he is one of the best in the league.
Over his six seasons as the regular starter for the Blackhawks, Crawford’s average numbers come out to 30 wins, .918 save percentage and a 2.31 goals-against average. When you put those averages against some of the top performers since 2010, Crawford is in the top-five discussion. Outside of Matt Murray with the Penguins last year, the last team to win a Stanley Cup without a legitimate top-five goaltender was the Penguins in 2009 with Marc-Andre Fleury.
If Crawford does what he is capable of, and it should be easier to do with a better defensive core playing in front of him in 2016-17, then he and the Blackhawks will have another successful season and a deep Stanley Cup Playoffs run into the summer of 2017.