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All Time Blackhawks

Best Blackhawks Goalie of All-Time: Esposito, Hall, or Crawford?

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CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 15: Corey Crawford #50 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrates by hoisting the Stanley Cup after defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning by a score of 2-0 in Game Six to win the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the United Center on June 15, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 15: Corey Crawford #50 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrates by hoisting the Stanley Cup after defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning by a score of 2-0 in Game Six to win the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the United Center on June 15, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images) /
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While the Chicago Blackhawks have had over 85 goalies dress for their franchise, a select few stand out amongst the rest as the best that ever played the position.

Despite a short offseason stint with the New Jersey Devils, Corey Crawford will always be remembered for his time with the Chicago Blackhawks. Having announced his retirement, there’s no better time than the present to take a look back on just how great of a career he had.

Joining the league in 1926, some of the best Blackhawks played during eras that today’s fanbase wouldn’t have had the opportunity to enjoy. It’s not as though we can compare witnessing their goaltending greats all in real-time, in the same way we can with what we’ve seen from Crawford since he joined the team in 2005.

While stats don’t always tell the whole story, having a large enough sample size certainly presents undisputable patterns. With that said, the top three goalies in franchise history for games played are Tony Esposito, Glenn Hall, and Corey Crawford.

A fitting trio, given that it’s most justifiable to include them in the conversation of best to ever control Chicago’s crease. Rather than debating different facets of their games or why it may be difficult to determine who brought more to their respective team, we’ll let the numbers paint the picture.

Games Played

Crawford became the Blackhawks’ full-time netminder as of the 2010-11 season, after being drafted by the organization in 2003. Through 13 seasons with Chicago, he racked up 488 games played.

Hall started his career with the Detroit Red Wings and ended it with the St. Louis Blues. But he was a Blackhawk between 1957-58 and 1966-67 and managed to play in 618 contests through those 10 years.

After 13 games with the Montreal Canadiens in 1968-69, Esposito moved on to the Blackhawks and never looked back. He’d go on to play 873 times with Chicago, throughout his 15 tenure with the team.

Stats courtesy of: QuantHockey.

Winner: Esposito.

Win Percentage

With a record of 260-162-26, it’s obvious that Crawford did his job of putting his team in the best position to succeed. Winning 53.3% of his games is no small feat.

276 wins places Hall second on Chicago’s all-time list in that category, but actually only amounts to a win percentage of 44.7% when considering his 618 contests played.

With 873 matches to his name with the Blackhawks, it makes sense that Esposito’s 418 wins are the most in franchise history. However, winning at a rate of 47.9% doesn’t have him at the top.

Stats couresy of: QuantHockey.

Winner: Crawford.

Shutouts

Not really renowned for leading the league in shutouts, Crawford’s best year in that regard came in 2015-16 when he earned seven. Overall, he accumulated 26 in 13 seasons.

Hall topping all teams in shutouts multiple times throughout his career, including 12 with Detroit in 1955-56. The most he’d earn in a season with Chicago was nine, with 51 through 10 years.

Esposito peaked early when it came to shutout success, with 15 in his first year with Chicago. Still, he’d make them a habit through his 15 years there, piling up 74 over that span.

Stats courtesy of: Hockey-Reference.

Winner: Esposito.

Goals Against Average

Since taking over as their undisputed starter, Crawford never saw his goals-against average hit higher than 2.93. Cumulatively, his career GAA lands at 2.45.

Hall’s 2.38 GAA in 1966-67 was the best he’d achieve with the Blackhawks. His consistency earned him a 2.60 throughout his full tenure with the team.

Although Esposito saw his numbers go the wrong way once the 1980s came around, his 15 years of sample size were enough to keep him at a healthy 2.93 GAA overall with Chicago.

Stats courtesy of: Hockey-Reference.

Winner: Crawford.

Save Percentage

Whether through their dynasty years or otherwise, Crawford found a way to maintain a strong save percentage for Chicago. Ultimately, he ends his career with a .918.

Despite one year that saw his SV% fall below .900, Hall held steady numbers in that respect the rest of the way and earned a .916 as a Blackhawk.

Esposito’s save stats were far higher through his early years in Chicago. But he was still able to uphold an overall average of .906 through those 15 campaigns.

Stats courtesy of: Hockey-Reference.

Winner: Crawford.

Individual Awards

Although Crawford’s ability to perform consistently for his club deserves recognition, he was rarely amongst those who led the league. However, he did win the William M. Jennings trophy twice.

Despite Hall’s trophy case being much more full in a general sense, he only won hardware twice as a Blackhawks. Being awarded two Vezina Trophies is nothing to look down upon, though.

Esposito being awarded the Calder Memorial Trophy was the start of what would also include capturing the Vezina Trophy three times throughout his storied and successful run in Chicago.

Stats courtesy of: Hockey-Reference.

Winner: Esposito.

Stanley Cups

Crawford was the type of goalie that showed up when it mattered most, which is evidenced in being part of their dominance through the 2010s. His two Stanley Cups were won in a three-year span, too.

Part of the team that won it last, before Chicago finally broke one of the longest streaks in the NHL to that point in 2010, Hall was part of the 1961 Cup-winning Blackhawks.

It wasn’t for a lack of trying, as Esposito did push the Blackhawks through a number of deep playoff runs, but he never was able to fully complete the task at hand and hoist a Cup of his own.

Stats courtesy of: Hockey-Reference.

Winner: Crawford.

There are obviously a number of ways one can dissect these types of stats to help formulate a conclusion, including those that are focused on and compared above. However, there is simply no disputing that Crawford, Hall, and Esposito are the best to ever suit up with the Blackhawks.

Related Story. Chicago Blackhawks: Goalie Mount Rushmore. light

While Hall and Esposito found their spot in the Hall of Fame, whether Crawford ever reaches that destination is yet to be seen. Regardless, it’s impossible to ignore that Crawford’s achievements with this team elevate him above the rest when it comes to where he should be ranked amongst the greats of this franchise. The numbers don’t lie.

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