Is Corey Crawford The Blackhawks Achilles Heel?

The Chicago Blackhawks can score. This season’s offensive performances from the Hawks’ elite forwards, and some impressive secondary players, put the Hawks near the top of the NHL in scoring.

So the biggest question most people are asking is if Corey Crawford is good enough for this team to make a deep run.

Looking at Crawford’s season as a whole, there is plenty of cause for concern. His goals against average and save percentage were both well off of expectations, and he was removed from a game far too many times for fans to remain comfortable with his performance.

Did Crawford pitch a shutout this year? No. The entire free world has hung that statistic around his neck for the last month, and the 2011-12 Blackhawks will own the distinction of racking up over 100 points in a season without a shutout.

Does that matter? Sure.

But Ryan Miller had six shutouts this year, and he would probably trade each and every one of them for Crawford’s spot on the ice Thursday night.

And Cam Ward had five doughnuts on his ledger this year, but he’d probably give them all back in a heartbeat to be in a game this weekend.

The point isn’t that shutouts are meaningless, but that they don’t mean everything in goaltending.

Indeed, looking back over the last few weeks, it appears Crawford is getting his act together. Here are the save percentages from the primary goaltenders of the eight teams in the Western Conference playoffs since March 1:

Vancouver Roberto Luongo .917
Vancouver Cory Schneider .949
St. Louis Jaroslav Halak .929
St. Louis Brian Elliott .954
Phoenix Mike Smith .938
Nashville Pekka Rinne .911
Detroit Jimmy Howard .913
Chicago Corey Crawford .921
Los Angeles Jonathan Quick .915
San Jose Antti Niemi .918

As you can see, Crawford’s save percentage since the first of March has been as good or (mostly) better than the other goalies that will take the ice in the Western Conference postseason match-ups.

What’s more, consider the number of shots these guys have faced since the All-Star Break (the number on the far right here is the netminder’s NHL rank):

Vancouver Roberto Luongo 631 20t
Vancouver Cory Schneider 411 30
St. Louis Jaroslav Halak 537 22
St. Louis Brian Elliott 364 36
Phoenix Mike Smith 947 2
Nashville Pekka Rinne 804 8
Detroit Jimmy Howard 396 31
Chicago Corey Crawford 505 26
Los Angeles Jonathan Quick 636 19
San Jose Antti Niemi 839 5

Here, we’re seeing that there have been some health concerns for guys like Jimmy Howard and, now, Brian Elliott (upper-body) down the stretch while other teams have continued to establish who they were going to use as their number one guy in the playoffs.

More importantly to Blackhawks fans, consider the workload put in by 30-year-old Mike Smith for the Coyotes.

The 947 shots he faced since the All-Star Game would represent the third-highest season total in Smith’s career; Smith faced 455 shots in March, compared to 576 last year. Before this season, the most shots Smith had faced in a season in the NHL was 1,282 in 2008-09 with the Lightning, but he raised the bar to 2,066 this year in Phoenix.

To Smith’s credit, he finished the season incredibly strong. But he is truly in uncharted territory right now regarding his ice time, and that cannot be ignored. Add to that his postseason record, which includes only one start and just three appearances, and assuming Smith will be the better goaltender in the upcoming series against the Blackhawks should be far from a foregone conclusion.

On the other end of the ice, Crawford has been erratic but also finished the season on a high note with an 8-1-2 mark since March 1.

And the only real postseason track record we have for Crawford in the postseason was last year’s first round series against Vancouver, in which he posted a .927 save percentage and 2.21 goals against average while being individually responsible for the series lasting to a seventh game.

Crawford became the first Hawks netminder to win 30 games in consecutive seasons since Eddie Belfour in 1992-93 and 1993-94, and Crawford can proudly boast that he owns two of only 18 individual seasons from a Chicago netminder that ended with at least 30 victories.

Certainly Hawks fans will continue to sacrifice finger nails in the name of Crawford for 60 minutes (sometimes 65). But fans should show cautious optimism, if not confidence, that Crawford can get the Hawks past the first round.

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12 Responses to Is Corey Crawford The Blackhawks Achilles Heel?

  1. Martin Brody says:

    News Update* – Daniel Sedin will miss tonight’s game 1 against the Kings. There WILL be retribution for the deliberate premeditated head shot to Daniel Sedin by Duncan Cheapshot Keith. It may not be this post season, but I guarantee you hawks fans your stars WILL pay one way or another next season. My guess is John Toews will pay for Duncan Cheapshot Keith with his second major concussion and might be forced to retire next season. Mark my words.

  2. Jordan Dicksen says:

    Even if that didn’t happen the Canucks players would still be throwing cheap shots against the Hawks. Probably because that’s the only way they can beat them. Have fun being out by the second round this year and still being without a Cup. I don’t know if the city of Vancouver can handle another riot, so good luck. GO KINGS!

  3. Tab Bamford says:

    When did the Canucks suddenly need an excuse to play dirty hockey? And it’s never been “John Toews.”

  4. Geoff says:

    Nice D-Bag threat Brody, I guess a Canucks fan would be an expert on cheap shots, why dont you listen to The Sister himself, Keith is a respectable hockey player that made a mistake, his first mistake of that kind of his whole career.

    The only thing separating the hawks from round 2 is good goalie? Sounds good to me. Loungo got his playoff reputation from his play against the Hawks, and thats not all Loungo being bad, he gets paid $$$$ for a reason, he is really good, and the hawks owned him. Mike Smith is gonna get owned too. Also, Crawford looked great in a sample size showing the last game against Detroit 3yrs ago too. Crow is great in shootouts, and 8 playoff games, apparently he can handle pressure…just not the regular season routine. Hawks in 5 unless it takes a little longer to crack Smith.

  5. DTM says:

    If you want to subscribe to Chief Brody’s theory then Keith’s hit would be retribution for the CHEAP SHOT on Seabrook last year. “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” for all your bullshit.
    Calling to have someone’s career ended. Stay classy Vancouver fans. Hopefully after your playoff exit this year they burn the whole damn city down.

  6. Rebecca Reber says:

    Way to represent, Brody. And Van fans wonder why everyone hates them. I can’t even imagine the kind of sick mind that would want to end a man’s health and career this way.

  7. Darcy says:

    This Brody character is one of the reasons everyone hates on the Canucks.There are real Canuck fans out there that are embarrased by bandwagoners of his ilk!I respect the true fan but have no time for morons such as Brody!

  8. Joe says:

    Brody, let me ask you this. If you are a Canucks fan, why are you wasting your time reading an article about the Hawks goaltender? First of all, there is no H in Jonathan Toews’ name. I’m sure you’re a very credible source, because obviously you know the Canucks personally and can read the future. You are the reason everyone hates the Canucks. Wishing a career ending injury on one of the best players in the NHL is disgusting.

  9. Eddy says:

    Brody,

    Did you miss the shot Daniel took at Keith earlier in the game? Or how about the knee shot he took also. Go watch some replays, think deeply, and then come back here and try to rant how the hawks(mainly keith) are the dirty team.

  10. Kyle says:

    Brody you’re a pussy!! Haters are like crickets they’re all noisey till someone gets close to them… I hope I meet you one day so I can knock your teeth out.

  11. Brad Stevenson says:

    Why do we let this punka$$ hijack this thread…forget him…the points about Crawford are legitimate and Tab makes a number of key points…

    The bottom line with Crawford is this…he was a STUD in the playoffs last year…he has played All Star hockey at times this year…he can do it…he has the ability to forget the problems this season and write a new ending…let’s hope he does.

  12. Tom Jaremka says:

    As usual, Tab throws out numbers that make me use my brain and think a little bit.
    I guess what Tab is trying to say is that Crawford is really alot better than we, or I, give him credit for. But I’m not so sure that we need to be concerned about Corey Crawford. I’m more concerned about our ability, as a team, to play a conservative game and not make mistakes at key places on the ice.

    We need to forget about the fancy “behind the back” passes and focus on quick tape to tape passes and controlling all three zones of the ice. If we concentrate on fast, hard nosed hockey, we can beat Phoenix in 6 games, or less.

    Remember, it’s not Crawford vs. Smith, it’s Crawford vs. their offense and Smith vs. our boys. I think we have the better snipers, too.

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