There is a bizarre notion that persists among some in the hockey world that, leading into any given playoff series, the Chicago Blackhawks have a weak point in net. Over the past two post-seasons, Corey Crawford has been the most successful goaltender in the NHL. In individual series during that time frame, he has outplayed the trio of Jonathan Quick, Tuukka Rask and Ryan Miller — three far more celebrated netminders.
When people think of Chicago, however, the first names to come to mind are Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. This is sensible, of course; those two are the primary reasons why a previously moribund franchise is now among the most successful in the world. That Corey Crawford is egregiously underrated is not apparent so much through the lack of name recognition as it is through headlines like this one that have popped up ad nauseam for years.
Corey Crawford: Why the Lack of Respect?
The comical thing about that headline is that the goalie at the other end of the ice in that series, Rask, isn’t even mentioned.
The game that produced the story, after all, was a 6-5 win for the Blackhawks; Rask let more shots past him than Crawford did, but all the media focused on was Crawford’s glove hand. This is the strange double standard that Crawford has endured for most of his NHL career and it seems as if it stems mostly from the fact that he plays for the Blackhawks. The common narrative is that he benefits from playing behind a great team which makes him look far better than he actually is.
Obviously that narrative is true to an extent, but why is Crawford seemingly the only goalie who it applies to? The hockey world doesn’t make it a point to discuss how the elite team in front of Rask helps his game or how the defensive-oriented New York Rangers have been inflating Henrik Lundqvist’s numbers for almost a decade.
Disclaimer: Both Rask and Lundqvist are fantastic. This is not an attempt to deride them; rather, it is an attempt to show that Crawford is for whatever reason held to a different standard than most other goalies in the NHL.
That this double standard exists is indisputably true. When the topic of the best playoff goaltenders of the last several years comes up, Jonathan Quick’s name is brought up immediately and Crawford’s is typically an afterthought… even though the latter has been statistically superior to the former in that sample, and more consistent as well.
Will Crawford Always Be Underrated?
Most likely. Detroit Red Wings fans are familiar with it; the same scenario applied to Chris Osgood for a number of years while he was with the Wings.
Nevertheless, I imagine Corey Crawford won’t mind being underrated if he can win another Stanley Cup or two. The Blackhawks seem primed for a deep run once again and Crawford has provided his usual excellence.
Sean covers the Chicago Blackhawks for The Hockey Writers and Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter: @seansarcu.