Corey Crawford Has One Goal and It’s Not the Vezina Trophy

Corey Crawford is undeniably having the best season of his career in 2015-16, and at the moment, the Chicago Blackhawks are pulling on his cape. Of course, they are always quick to praise the man between the pipes, but the rest of the world has taken more time to warm to the now veteran netminder, who should be a candidate for the Vezina Trophy. Some never will. In 2015-16, the Blackhawks are 12-5-1 in contests that are decided by one goal, which are often classified as goalie wins. While the offense has been firing on all cylinders of late for the Blackhawks, Thursday’s effort was signed, sealed and delivered by the man they call Crow.

On Thursday night, the Crow put on a goaltending clinic in front of his family and friends at the Bell Centre, just outside of his hometown, in the Original Six matchup with the Montreal Canadiens. A place that Crawford loves to shine with his 4-0-2 record and a .959 save percentage (including tonight’s victory) over the Habs in his career.

“I used to come watch games here and it’s still kind of surreal to step on the ice and actually play a game,” Crawford said. “I don’t think that’ll change anytime soon. It’s fun to have family and friends here.”

On a night where he faced 40 shots, Crawford only let one get by him. A bizarre bounce off of Paul Byron, who just happened to be standing in the right place, at the right time. It would have been a tough one for any netminder to stop.

Deny Him The Trophies, But Don’t Deny Him Respect

In recent weeks, Crawford has been snubbed for the All-Star Game and completely left off of the Vezina candidates list, yet he has been nothing short of spectacular for the reigning Stanley Cup champions. He has earned six shutouts and is currently one of the driving forces behind their current nine-game winning streak.

“There are a lot of factors, but it seems like our team is just coming together,” Crawford said of the streak. “We’re not taking as many penalties. We’re playing a simple game with speed and skill. And there’s a lot more chemistry throughout the lineup.”

Incidentally, the Blackhawks have now tied the Dallas Stars with 62 points (though the tie breaker goes to the Stars with two games in hand). They have also opened up a four-point lead on their nearest challenger (St. Louis Blues), and 10 points over the first wild card (Minnesota Wild).

None of that would be possible without Crow.

“Yeah there’s excitement in his game and in his demeanor going into the game,” Quenneville said of his goaltender. “I thought he was really good at morning skate, had a very business-like approach. We’ve seen him progress here each and every year. He’s having a great stretch for us right now; it’s one of the reasons we’ve been winning.”

In tight games, like Thursday night’s contest against the Montreal Canadiens, Crawford has effectively put up a forcefield around his cage, at times looking absolutely unbeatable. When he finds himself in that zone, just about everything that comes close is either smothered or kicked well out of harms way.

The game highlights from the second period tell the story of just how dominant Crawford has been between the pipes of late. Perhaps this is still not enough to sell his elite status outside of Chicago, but for any other netminder, this would be considered legendary.

Crawford is currently carrying a .929 save percentage, tying his career best, and if his play continues this upward trajectory, who knows where his number will end up before the season is over. In his last 15 games, he is a .946 while allowing 27 goals and earning 12 wins. He blanked his opponent four times in that span.

The Top Vezina Candidates

Of course, anyone who follows hockey knows that Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals is the most likely candidate for the Vezina Trophy this year. There is no disputing that he has done everything necessary to earn it. In fact, few would dispute that there is anyone else who even comes close. However, Crawford isn’t as far off the pace as many seem to believe.

In his last 15 games, Holtby has produced a .929 save percentage while allowing 27 goals and earning 13 wins with one shutout in that time frame. So, while results may be a bit better on the season, the two really aren’t that far away from each other.

Crawford has made 36 starts (24-10-2) with a .927 save percentage while Holtby has made 33 starts (27-4-2) with a .922 save percentage. The big difference for the netminders has, in fact, had less to do with their stats and more to do with the teams’ offensive production.

The Washington Capitals have the highest goal differential with plus-48 while the Blackhawks are in third with a plus-22. So, in actuality, Crow has earned his wins while receiving considerable less support offensively from his team.

The arguments can be made in a hundred different ways, and each time it seems unlikely that Crawford will ever get the recognition he deserves. However, based on stats alone, Crawford and Holtby should easily be the top two horses in the race without a doubt.

All-Star Snub

Crawford and the coaching staff may be breathing a sigh of relief that Crawford will not be participating in the All-Star Game, instead earning a bit of much-needed rest. However, his teammates were outraged on behalf of their goaltender.

Pekka Rinne and Devan Dubnyk got the nod from the league in spite of the fact that both have relatively average records. Rinne is 16-14-6 with a .905 save percentage while Dubnyk is 18-12-4 with a .920 save percentage.

In the Central, there is no hotter goalie than Crawford. The fact that a netminder with six shutouts is sitting behind anyone is outrageous. However, given the opportunity for rest ahead of a busy second half and hopefully a deep playoff run, no one inside that locker room is going to lose sleep over it.

Especially not Crawford.

Joel Quenneville Stands Alone At Second

Finally, Thursday night’s ninth win in a row also gave Quenneville his 783rd career win, giving him sole possession of the No. 2 slot on the all-time wins list for coaches.

For the Blackhawks and Crawford, this season is not about point totals, first place, Presidents’ Trophies, wild-card slots, home-ice advantage, or the Vezina Trophy. It is about one goal, and one Trophy.

The Stanley Cup.