Coach Joel Quennville and General Manager Stan Bowman have both consistently confirmed that Corey Crawford will be ready to go at the start of training camp. However, Corey Crawford’s answers aren’t nearly as confident.
“That’s hard to say right now, but it’s very possible,” Crawford said at the Chicago Blackhawks convention this past summer. “We’ve come a long way in the last couple months, and there’s a really good chance that could happen.”
He continued, telling the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus that he’s “feeling pretty good right now, [but] I am not at 100 percent yet.”
Da Windy City
While all of this is encouraging and a significant improvement over what we last heard on Corey, it should be taken with a grain of salt. Mark Lazerus was in attendance at the 2018 Blackhawks Convention and claims that Crawford’s “voice betrays his words.” Laz continued in his article regarding Crawford, saying “his eyes reddened a bit and his voice wavered when he was asked about the last seven months and whether he, at any point, feared for his career or his long-term health.”
Crawford’s words, though, did stay consistent with the rest of his message.
“Treatments are going well, and we’re making small steps. And I’m getting a little better, so it’s a process,” he said. “It’s been a process since I left in December. It hasn’t been easy.”
According to Laz, Corey closed by pausing, and then saying “But I’ll be back.”
As most of us know, the Blackhawks have been without goalie Corey Crawford since Dec. 23 of the 2017-18 season and struggled in his absence. The No. 2 position, initially handed to Anton Forsberg, was perhaps the biggest question mark for the Blackhawks last season. Five different goalies tried to win the backup job during Crawford’s injury.
None of them were good enough to do so.
Cam Ward, a 13-year veteran and former Carolina Hurricane, seems to be the guy to finally change that. His on-ice performance isn’t an exponential upgrade in comparison to the performances the ‘Hawks saw last year in goal. However, he brings experience and consistently with him that the other No. 2 goaltenders lacked.
Those five goalies who couldn’t fill the back up position won just 17 games in 55 starts. In comparison, in 42 starts last year, Ward went 23-14-4. Goalies are more than just their records, so let’s compare Ward’s statistics with the guys he’s replacing (for now, anyway).
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Forsberg, Glass, Berube and Delia started 55 games. In those, they posted a combined .897 save percentage with a 3.51 goals against average. In addition, only 41.3 percent of their starts were deemed “quality starts,” these stats according to Hockey Reference (and an iPhone calculator).
On the other hand, Ward put up a .906 SV% with a 2.73 GAA. Twenty-one of his 42 starts were quality starts. His quality save percentage of 50 is just 3 percentage points below the league average. While these numbers aren’t outstanding, Ward isn’t an outstanding goaltender.
He is, however, experienced and reliable; two qualities the Blackhawks badly need in a backup. Ward is set to provide stability in a net which badly needs it as Crawford’s health still remains uncertain heading intothis year.
Though Corey Crawford’s return is certain, the time table is not. Fortunately, Cam Ward will help to make the Blackhawks goaltending more consist than it was last season. Last year was a season in which nearly everything that could’ve gone wrong, did. Now, with a more consistent net presence, Stan Bowman will be able to identify where the Blackhawks biggest roster holes are and address them in the most effective way possible.
Stay tuned for the three other reasons Blackhawks fans should be excited for the 2018-19 season.