Last year, there was strength in numbers as Blackhawks fans ensured Chicago’s starting goalie Corey Crawford received a spot in the 2015 NHL All-Star Game. Last week, however, those same fans were rankled with Crawford’s omission in the 2016 All-Star Game.
Their anger is understandable. Crawford reached the halfway point of the season as one of the best goalies in the league.
He has not only achieved a career high in shutouts with six (in 36 games, which blows his previous high of four shutouts in 57 games out of the water), he leads all NHL goalies in shutting the door as well. Crawford’s current .927 save percentage is the best of his career and is third in Sv% for all goalies who have over 2,000 time-on-ice minutes played. He ranks second in wins at 24 and seventh in goals against average among goalies with over 30 games played.
Very strong numbers, especially considering his All-Star year saw him 12th in wins, fifth in Sv% among starting goaltenders and 11th in GAA among goalies with at least 30 starts.
Of course, with rule changes and a different fan voting process, Crawford was the unlucky guy out.
Beyond the 2015-2016 season, however, there is more reason to appreciate just the kind of goaltender Corey Crawford is: one of the best in Chicago Blackhawks history.
Crawford one of the Elite in Blackhawks History
Since the Blackhawks entered the league in 1926, 80 goaltenders have suited up for the team, according to NHL.com. In comparison, the other Original Six era teams have had 103 (Boston Bruins), 84 (Detroit Red Wings), 77 (Montreal Canadiens), 83 (New York Rangers), and 85 (Toronto Maple Leafs) goalies.
Out of those 80 goalies, Crawford ranks fourth in wins at 171 out of 304 games played. Here are the names of the goaltenders above Crawford: Hockey Hall of Famers Tony Esposito (418 wins), Glenn Hall (275) and Ed Belfour (201). Two of those players – Hall and Esposito – have their numbers retired by the team. That is some impressive company.
While these numbers remain in flux from game to game and from decade to decade as playing style change, Crawford is number one in Sv% (.918) and in GAA (2.32) among goalies with at least 100 starts with the Blackhawks. Looking at those numbers, it seems remarkable that even the most supportive of Hawks fans do not give Crawford the respect those numbers deserve. Yet it’s hard for Crow to stand out in an era of excellent goaltenders.
Today’s NHL Goalies Getting in the Way
Crawford has never come close to winning the Vezina Trophy in recognition as the league’s best goaltender, not even as a finalist. The only times he was ranked within the top ten was in 2012-2013 (8th) and 2014-2015 (6th) seasons. In comparison, his contemporaries have stolen the award show: Henrik Lundqvist, for example, has been in the top ten for the past ten years, was a finalist four times and won the Vezina Trophy once.
But what if you put media bias aside and go straight for the William M. Jennings Trophy: the award for keeping the least amount of pucks out of the net?
Crawford has won two of the past three Jennings awards and is one of only nine goalies since the 1981-1982 season to have won the trophy twice. Ed Belfour is the only other Blackhawk to have won the trophy as well.
While Crawford may never get a call from the Hockey Hall of Fame or see his number hanging from the rafters of the United Center, Blackhawks fans should recognize him for what he is: one of the best goaltenders in Blackhawks history.
Michelle Timian fell in love with hockey after watching a game between the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs in 2006 and has been following hockey ever since. She is a graduate of Western Illinois University with a degree in Creative Writing and is more comfortable in front of a keyboard than on skates. She also blogs for the New York Rangers at blueshirtsunited.com.