Since returning from injured reserve, Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford has been excellent in net and allowed his teammates to play their own game freely
Over this five-game winning streak the Chicago Blackhawks find themselves on, a lot of the buzz has been placed the team’s ability to start finding the net once again. That’s for good reason.
The ‘Hawks have scored 18 goals in the last five games, almost doubling their total of 10 from the five games they lost before this recent stretch. It is easy to circle the increase in goal scoring as the primary reason the team has been successful this last week and a half.
But somewhat quietly, there is one player who has come in every night at the top of his game and been essential to this five game winning streak: Corey Crawford.
Crawford has only given up seven goals in the last five games, saving 139 of 146 shots he has faced. But this is a stretch that even the numbers don’t do justice.
While I am not the biggest proponent of the “eye test,” there is no denying that watching Crawford in the five games he has played in since returning from IR has shown the goalie at the top of his game.
As you can see in the video package from Eric Lear of Blackhawks TV, Crawford has had phenomenal positioning, excellent rebound control and made some very tough saves lately.
What’s more, this streak of Crawford’s extends past this five-game stretch. Crawford is 9-0-2 over his last 11 starts; games in which the ‘Hawks were able to collect a very important 20 out of a possible 22 points. Crawford has a .938 save percentage and a 1.96 goals-against average in that stretch.
But looking at the rest of the team assembled in front of Crawford, there seems to be a lot more confidence on the ice when Crow is in net. This could be why the ‘Hawks are averaging six more shots a game in the five games since Crawford has returned compared to the three games he was on IR.
Freedom to trust in the goaltender behind them has allowed forwards to breakout faster from the defensive zone and not enter the night with a bigger defensive mindset than usual. Crawford is not only stopping the puck, he is giving the rest of the team the peace of mind to play its game normally.
Crawford now sits at No. 1 in the NHL in save percentage (.935) among goalies who have started at least 10 games this season. He is also tied for first in goals-against average (.211). By comparison, Scott Darling, who many fans thought the ‘Hawks should have kept instead of Crawford, has a .903 save percentage and a 2.64 goals-against average this season in Carolina.
All of this comes for Crawford with what was described the entire offseason as an inexperienced and weak defensive unit playing in front of him. So much for not being a top 10 goaltender in the NHL.