Chicago Blackhawks’ Defensive Shakeup May Impact Corey Crawford

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 15: Goalie Corey Crawford
CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 15: Goalie Corey Crawford /

Corey Crawford has given his all during his tenure with the Chicago Blackhawks. This season, however, he’ll need to give more based on the team’s recent defensive moves.

After last year’s failed playoff run, there were a lot of players to blame for the Chicago Blackhawks. Big-time forwards didn’t show up like they did in the regular season, and defensive efforts were god awful. It was after this rude awakening that the Blackhawks would shakeup their roster and change the dynamics behind their whole scheme.

Regardless of what you think of him, it’s almost indisputable that goaltender Corey Crawford was the most important piece of the team’s puzzle, stabilizing the ’Hawks in their worst moments. He was the only player in the four-game series with the Nashville Predators who stood his ground and played like he was supposed to.

During the course of the year, Crawford held a 32-18-4 record with a .918 save percentage and a 2.55 goals-against average. Despite his injuries and increasing GAA from the previous year, he was the most important puzzle piece to protect and keep in a stable situation.

However, this stability hasn’t been maintained. Due to the drastic roster moves, such as the transaction of Connor Murphy from the Arizona Coyotes for Niklas Hjalmarsson, the ’Hawks were bound to be hurt from this. Not to mention, there was no fair trade involved. They Coyotes practically stole Hjalmarsson, which is going to be costly for the man guarding their crease.

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According to this graph from Tableau, the ’Hawks only have one active defenseman who had a good appearance when preventing entries and orchestrating breakouts. Gustav Forsling was one of the only players who statistically did better than others who remain on the roster, as Hjalmarsson, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Brian Campbell are all gone.

With Forsling as the only one with a good carry-in percentage, there is a lot of worry that gives into line combinations, which are projected to look like this:

Duncan Keith-Connor Murphy
Michal KempnyBrent Seabrook
Gustav Forsling-Jan Rutta

Current options create skepticism

Obviously, that’s only speculation and coach Joel Quenneville will most certainly change that up many times as the 2017-18 season goes along. However, I’m not a strong believer in the team’s defensive game, as we have no idea what chemistry these guys could have.

Trading an elite defenseman for a player like Murphy is high risk, but outcomes are never certain. They could work well together, and we have at least some faith in the Kempny-Seabrook combo to keep the ball rolling. However, Seabrook’s age and decreasing value makes that theory weak.

I just don’t think this defensive movement will hold for long, and it will hurt Crawford as the season progresses. We saw instances where chemistry seemed mixed up at the beginning of last season, and there weren’t even many changes to the roster.

Everything seemed out of whack, but Crawford pulled his weight and the rest of the team followed. Again, they had a defensive core that was still able to play a 60-minute game.

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  • The ’Hawks still have defensemen to move around such as Erik Gustafsson, Jordan Oesterle, and Michal Rozsival (unfortunately). But again, this is much more of a seventh-grade science experiment estimating whether a mixture of chemicals will fail or not, and Crawford is the final grade.

    Defensive shakeup may impact Crawford

    Now, I’m no strong believer that Crawford can stop a speeding bullet. He is a core piece who is aging and facing injury-prone symptoms.

    With a revolving defensive door and a lackluster backup goaltending situation, all eyes are going to be on him. However, it’s a scary scene since his GAA has risen from 2.27 to 2.55 in just three years, even with the defense he’s had in front of him.

    Crawford is a goaltender who makes a good team great, not a goaltender who makes a bad team good. So far, the defense isn’t looking too well. The team will need a full adjustment to make things work out, but that all starts with how the new defensive pieces react to said adjustment.

    We’ve witnessed how well Crawford can handle hot situations in the crease, but over time there is no doubt he’ll give way to a not-so-elite defense in front of him. Crawford’s no stranger to criticism and self-doubt. We’ve seen in previous years at times when the opponent got the best of him.

    I think this season could take a toll on him and frustrate him more and more as it goes along. After all, goaltending works heavily on the mind.

    Next: Has Cost Of Winning Caught Up With Fans?

    The Blackhawks have an interesting year ahead of us, that’s for sure. However, these defensive ailments will impact Crawford in some ways good and bad. Only time will tell.