/kicks rock

Corey Crawford was a replacement level goaltender this year.

Any way you look at it, old stats, new stats, eye test or whatever, the Blackhawks goaltending was their area of greatest need in 2011-12. They had a pretty good back-up goaltender, but we’ll get to him later. The guy making starter money had a 2.76 GAA and a .903 SV%. His even-strength save percentage was .915. Crawford was in the bottom third of the league in just about every goalie stat out there and dead last in shutouts along with his partner. During the 9 game skid, when nothing was going right, the goalies were the most culpable sources for blame. Crawford looked like he needed to be chained to his net. We can use all the excuses and cliches like sophomore slump, but the fact is he didn’t have a good season. There’s also the chance he can find himself somewhere in the middle of his past two years in the coming season though, too.

Positives: Crawford’s playoff showing, save for the two overtime goals, was a pleasant surprise after such a tumultuous year. Mike Smith was the reason the Hawks exited early again, not Corey Crawford. At the end of the season when the Hawks were struggling to keep their heads above water in the playoff chase, Crawford did stabilize a bit and backstopped a few one goal victories. He also had a solid start to the year until right after the Minnesota game with Kane’s shootout showcase. Around the change of the calendar, Crawford’s season went off a cliff and there were even rumblings about Ray Emery getting the starter job full-time. He managed to keep his job and roll into the playoffs but there isn’t a win that immediately come to mind for that said “goalie win.” Subjective, yes, but can you come up with one?

Negatives: There’s a lot to tear apart for Crow’s season but it really only came in about 30% of the games played. Otherwise, Crawford gave the Hawks a chance to win his starts. His problems began to compound when he challenged skaters more by coming out of his crease near the circles. When Crawford would come away from his net, a pass behind the office would see him scrambling to get back. Wraparounds were there all day again Crow. Crawford was a major part of the penalty kill’s failure. His .829 SV% is well below the league average of .856. He ranked 65th among goalies with at least 10 starts in save percentage on the kill.

As the season progressed, Crawford stayed in his crease a bit more but the soft goals were still being surrendered. Crawford’s 2nd year as a starter can be, at best, deemed a disappointment.

Outlook: Crawford is going to be the starter for next year’s team. I don’t see the Hawks pursuing a free agent, maybe they’ll dip their feet in the trade talks. Still, Crawford is signed for two more years at a modest cap hit. His back-up will remain the same; a solid enough player for 20 or so starts but asking more is not recommended. He could very well rebound to his numbers from 2010-11 or even somewhere in between those and this year’s. His leash will be short, but he’ll be given the chance to secure the job. Quenneville is putting on the front of a team where playing time must be earned so only the people that had the Coyotes in the Conference Finals in your pools can forecast how Quenneville handles his goaltenders next year.

Money should be spent to help what is in front of Crawford, especially on the kill. Nick Leddy playing PK time of significance next year cannot be the norm. There won’t be 75+ games logged by the likes of John Scott and Sean O’Donnell. If Crawford plays like he did this year, it wouldn’t matter if Bobby Orr and Nick Lidstrom were anchoring the Hawks D.

Assessment: A disappointment but not a player to give up on. Likely not someone the Hawks will look to on a consistent basis as a reason they win games but capable of keeping them in most.

  • Special Teams: 1 Indian Head. Our penalty kill was atrocious and Crawford was on the ice for a lot of it.
  • Even Strength: 2 Indian Heads. And barely. He was decidedly average.
  • Overall I give him 1.5 Indian Heads and a big Needs Improvement going into next season.