Blackhawks vs Wild Playoff Preview: The Goaltenders

On Sunday, we took a look ahead to the upcoming first round series between the Blackhawks and Wild by focusing on two of the outstanding rookies in the NHL this year, Jonas Brodin and Brandon Saad.

Certainly those two will have an impact, but the focus of eyes all over the continent will be on the play between the pipes in this series. How will Niklas Backstrom and, more specifically, Corey Crawford handle their business between the pipes? Let’s take a look at the matchup between the two goalies.

Crawford 2

For Chicago, Crawford was the heart of every discussion about this season’s potential for the Blackhawks… and he finds himself there once again. In spite of a strong statistical season, there are still doubters that are sure he’ll be the downfall of another postseason for the Hawks.

However, Crawford has been consistent for most of the season, and has done a good job of bouncing back from bad performances this year. In three of the four months of the 2013 regular season, Crawford posted a save percentage of at least .929 with only March (.909) coming in lower.

Jennings TrophyCrawford’s April numbers (5-1-2, .929, 1.87) indicate he’s coming into the postseaon playing well. Over his last four games, Crawford has a .942 save percentage.

Against Minnesota this year, Crawford was 1-0-1 with five goals allowed against 48 shots (.896 save percentage). He last started against Minnesota on March 5 at the United Center, a 5-3 victory for the Blackhawks.

While the attention will certainly be on Crawford as the starter for Chicago, we cannot ignore the performance of Ray Emery this season. He was Crawford’s equal in almost every statistical category, including goals against (in which the pair tied for second in the NHL with a 1.94 average), shutouts (each had three) and save percentage (they were separated by .004). With Emery questionable for the start of the playoffs, there will more pressure on Crawford to perform.

Together, Crawford and Emery won the Jennings Trophy for the 2013 regular season.

backstrom

For Minnesota’s Backstrom, the total season numbers and trends inside those totals aren’t nearly as pretty as is the case with Crawford.

The last three months don’t reflect a netminder that’s playing his best hockey heading into the postseason. In each of the last three months, Backstrom’s goals against average has gone up (2.13 – 2.48 – 2.81) and his save percentage has gone down (.921 – .915 – .889).

Backstrom was 5-8-1 in April. He allowed at least three goals in five of his last seven starts, and had only a .901 save percentage over his last four contests.

However, some of Backstrom’s best work this season came against the Blackhawks. He appeared in three games (starting twice) and had a .934 save percentage, allowing only five goals against 76 shots. Indeed, he played better than his 1-2-0 record would indicate. In his last start against the Blackhawks on April 9, Backstrom took a 1-0 loss in spite of stopping 30 of 31 Chicago shots at the Xcel Energy Center.

While Chicago has been able to rely on two goaltenders all season, the same hasn’t been true in Minnesota. Darcy Kuemper, Josh Harding and Matt Hackett combined to start only seven games for the Wild this year, and were responsible for a 2-4-0 combined record.

Blackhawks v Wild

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8 Responses to Blackhawks vs Wild Playoff Preview: The Goaltenders

  1. Mike says:

    Tab, I think Crawford has doubters because of his tendency (infrequent I might add) to let in a soft goal at at seemingly bad time. It is a momentum change. Crawford lets in a soft goal….stands on his head the rest of the game. If the Hawks lose better blame him.

    Crawford has the potential to shine in the playoffs. The deeper the Hawks go the better Crawford will get. He seems to play his best when the opposing team puts a lot of shots on goal. That will happen. For Crawford, round one could be his toughest.

  2. Tim G says:

    I have every belief that Crawford will do fine. On the other hand, even though Backstrom has been good againest us, on the year his Save % is only slightly above .900. We should be able to score 3 goals a game with our offense.

    Mark me down as saying it… HAWKS in 4!

  3. Sr. Brad says:

    The beliefs people have about CC are based entirely on CC’s play. No one that I have talked with has ever said CC is a bad goalie, he isn’t. In fact CC has the physical skills to become an elite NHL goaltender. It’s his mental approach…why do you think he can be all world versus Detroit, and then lost versus Colorado? As Tab pointed out, CC has been much better at letting go of the bad goals this season, and not let one mistake turn into five. This will be the key, because in playoff hockey, you can come back from a one goal deficit, but not five.

    Ultimately Crawford (and Emery) have been as good as our defence have allowed them to be this season, and it will be no different going into the playoffs…and with Rozy rested, Brookbank playing his best hockey all year, Leddy maturing into a top DMan and Hammer/Keith jelling into a top pairing, we are in good shape.

    The key in this series will be faceoffs. Minny is very good at the dot, and outside of Tazer we haven’t been. So with Handzus in over Bolland, that should help. Plus the last month of the season Kruger and Shaw have been downright good at the dot.

    Go Hawks.

  4. Sr. Brad says:

    With Backstrom, he’s a great goalie, but has been ridden hard by the Wild for 3 consecutive seasons, and in a strike shortened, INTENSE season, he’s tired…dead tired. That’s why his numbers have dropped every month…so if you want to score goals on Backstrom, then you have to work and keep coming…eventually they will go in.

  5. Dave says:

    Sr Brad, it wasn’t a strike.

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