When the Blackhawks host the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night, the eyes of Chicago will be focused between the pipes.
After the night from hell on Friday, the Blackhawks desperately needed their number one netminder to have a big game in Nashville on Saturday. While the ugly loss that night wasn’t completely Crawford’s fault, he was the player removed from the ice in shame during the second period.
Looking into his numbers deeper, Tuesday night appears to be a critical start for Crawford’s emotional momentum and future position on the Hawks’ depth chart.
After emerging as the goaltender of Chicago’s future at the end of the regular season and in the playoff loss to Vancouver last year, Crawford received the multi-year contract the organization had avoided with home-grown goalies for over a decade. But since signing the deal, he has rarely shown the consistent dominance he did down the stretch last season.
If we employ common sense and remove Columbus from the discussion, Crawford has been mediocre against the contenders for the Central Division crown. In six starts against Detroit, Nashville and St. Louis, Crawford is 2-2-2 with an .886 save percentage.
And since the calendar rolled over into 2012, Crawford’s numbers have been bad. He’s posted a 3-3-2 record with a .888 save percentage and 3.26 goals against average. None of those numbers are good enough for a team that hopes to contend for a Stanley Cup.
In fact, Crawford’s save percentage numbers look more like someone that should be in a reserve role than those of a team’s number one. Consider the following:
- 0 days rest: .899
- 1 day rest: .897
- 2 days rest: .888
- 3+ days rest: .934
Now consider the same numbers for Ray Emery this season:
- 0 days rest: N/A
- 1 day rest: .932
- 2 days rest: .930
- 3+ days rest: .891
The skaters in front of the net, whether it’s Crawford or Emery, need to be better on a more consistent basis than they have been at times this year. But while the organization will tell you there isn’t a controversy in net right now, another poor performance from Crawford in a critical game on Tuesday night could change the team’s thinking over the All-Star Break.
And further inspection indicates the Hawks might want to think twice about starting Crawford at home. Consider the numbers of the two netminders at the United Center:
- Crawford: 20 games (all starts), 11-5-3, .898 sv pct, 2.98 goals against avg
- Emery: 10 games (8 starts), 8-0-1, .938 sv pct, 1.55 goals against avg
Crawford will look to improve upon those and erase the memory of Saturday night from the fans in Chicago with a performance that keeps the Blackhawks close to the division-leading Red Wings.
What’s on the line Tuesday? A regulation loss by the Blackhawks and Blues (home vs. Pittsburgh) would put Chicago, Nashville and St. Louis in a three-way tie for second in the division and fourth in the Western Conference.