Last season was a rough one for the Chicago Blackhawks.
They missed the playoffs, were outclassed in a division that they used to dominate, and looked as if the Cup glow had worn off. While these things are all true, there was one other reason that the Blackhawks had an awful year in 2017.
That reason was the injury that kept Corey Crawford out for much of last season. Prior to the injury, Crawford, 33, had been one of the best goaltenders in the league.
In 28 games last year, he went 16-9 with a 2.27 goals against average, a .929 save percentage and two shutouts. Those numbers are both all-star and Vezina Trophy-caliber.
Going into this season, Crawford’s status was unknown and the team’s brass made sure to keep it that way. Questions arose whether Crawford was healthy enough to return and if he was not, how much more time would he miss.
Well, as of this writing, Crawford is the main reason why the Blackhawks have been able to remain somewhat relevant this season. Remember, they play in a division that has teams like the Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets, Colorado Avalanche, and Minnesota Wild.
As such, any points that the Blackhawks can get will be extremely valuable if they want to have any shot of getting back into the playoffs. Right now, Crawford’s play is keeping them in the hunt.
Crawford is currently 5-6-2 with a 2.44 goals against average, a .922 save percentage and one shutout. Sure, that record may not seem like much, but Crawford is the only reason why the Blackhawks have been competitive this year.
Crawford has especially been good in his last three games. In those games, he has stopped 98 of 100 shots, beating both the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues, as well losing a shootout to the Los Angeles Kings.
It is easy to see just how much Crawford means to this team. For starters, he’s able to make timely saves, and not only that, he just does a great job of stopping the puck in general.
When Crawford went down with the injury last season, the team got neither of those things from his back-up/replacement netminders. There were no big saves, lots of bad goals allowed, and certainly not a lot of wins.
Secondly, he’s consistent. You know that out of Crawford, you are going to get someone who battles every night, posts good numbers each season, and be one of if not the main reason why the Blackhawks are in the thick of things in the Western Conference.
Lastly, it is clear that with Crawford between the pipes, the Blackhawks are a much different team. They play with more confidence, they know they have a goalie behind them who will keep them in the game, and they also know that with their main man between the pipes, they have an opportunity to win every night.
If Crawford can stay healthy, there is no reason why, come March, the Blackhawks will be in a position to get back into the postseason.
*Photo: Chicago Tribune