While Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford is trending upward, he’s getting little assistance from those around him these days
Corey Crawford is putting up impressive numbers this season in net for the Chicago Blackhawks. He was just named the first star of the NHL for last week and currently leads the NHL in save percentage and goals-allowed average at .945/1.77.
When the ’Hawks were on the top of their game in years past, Crawford was part of the core. He had to provide above-average NHL goaltending, and the team thrived. The numbers he is putting up this season would have been gravy back during the “dynasty years.”
Now the Blackhawks need Crawford to stand on his head just to stay afloat in the division. This season, the Blackhawks have relied heavily on Crawford to win games this season. In my opinion, the Blackhawks have relied on Crawford too much this season.
Blackhawks trending in the wrong direction
Sadly, the trend of the Blackhawks relying too much on Crawford started several years ago. Two things have led to the Blackhawks relying excessively on Crawford: their declining puck possession and the amount of the shots allowed. Since 2014, the ’Hawks’ numbers in puck possession and shots allowed have gone in the wrong direction.
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The Blackhawks Corsi-for percentage has been trending downward since the middle of 2014-15. Before the 2014-15 season, the ’Hawks were above 55 percent six times. Since 2014-15, the Blackhawks have gotten closer to 50 percent.
With the Blackhawks’ puck possession trending downward, the amount of shots Crawford faces has increased. Since the 2014-15 season, Crawford’s shots faced has jumped up each year.
In 2014-15, Crawford ranked 15th in the NHL with 1,661 shots faced. The league leader was Braden Holtby at 2,044. Crawford went from 15th to 10th in 2015-16 with 1,718 shots faced. The league leader was Henrik Lundqvist with 1,944. In 2016-17, Crawford’s shots faced went down to 1,691 and he ranked 13th in the NHL. The league leader was Cam Talbot with 2,117.
Those numbers, along with what has transpired this season, has me very alarmed. Crawford is currently fourth in the NHL with 378 saves. Now to Crawford’s credit, he has been good despite the high number of shots. His save percentage was .924 in 2014-15 and 2015-16. Last season, Crawford’s save percentage regressed to .918. That is closer to his career average of .919.
Despite facing more than a league-average amount of shots, Crawford himself has kept the Blackhawks above water the last three seasons. That brings me to this season, with the Blackhawks not being able to score of late and Crawford facing an alarming numbers of shots. The ’Hawks are going to need elite-level performances from Crawford every start at this rate.
It also does not help that backup Anton Forsberg has been bad in limited work this season. The Blackhawks better find a way to possess the puck more and cut down the amount of shots Crawford faces, otherwise it is going to be a long regular season.