23 Intently Staring Goalies
by lsefton on 06/04/13 at 12:41 PM ET
Not a lot of teams have had their goaltender head off to another team immediately after the team wins and Stanley Cup, but that was the situation the Chicago Blackhawks found themselves after Antti Niemi signed with the San Jose Sharks. There were a lot of fans (and writers!) who went into "What the heck are we going to do for a goalie?" mode. The goalie they had in the system, Corey Crawford, was too young (he was 26--not a baby by goalie standards), too inexperienced, to take over the lead role.
The Blackhawks signed Marty Turco.
Okay, back to the drawing board. Even though Crawford ended the season with a 2.30 GAA and .917 save percentage, and 2.21 GAA and .927 save percentage, there were still cries for the Blackhawks needing to get a "real" goalie.
Crawford was heading towards that location in the goalie Twilight Zone previously inhabited by Chris Osgood--no matter how good his numbers were, he wasn't good enough. Osgood spent years in Detroit under the hanging sword of "he's only here until we get a real goalie", and ended up the odd man out during the Hasek and Cujo seasons. It wasn't until he came back to Detroit that he was given the recognition he deserved.
Was Crawford headed for the same fate? It seemed so, as the Blackhawks went out and signed Ray Emery. Emery was now seen as the answer. Crawford's (2.72/.903) and Emery's(2.81/.900) numbers were effectively the same in the regular season. Crawford's post-season play wasn't spectacular by any means, and that started up the talk of finding someone else, promoting from the AHL team, or doing *something*, because Crawford wasn't doing it.
In this season, Crawford (1.94/.926) and Emery (1.94/.922) have won the Jennings trophy for combined lowest GAA in the NHL. And when the playoffs started, and Emery wasn't available (we'll find out what's wrong after the playoffs), there was a collective "eek!" from the usuals, especially when the Blackhawks hit a rough patch against the Red Wings.
But here they are, playing in the conference finals, and they're doing just fine. And Crawford is playing with a lot of confidence, and showing he can be the #1 goalie in Chicago.
Here's what David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune has to say about Corey Crawford:
In one of his many bold moves Sunday night, Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford ventured 10 feet out of the crease as the puck dangerously veered toward him.
It had taken an awkward bounce off Kings center Jeff Carter's stick and initially looked harmless — and would have been had teammate Tyler Toffoli not been closing in. Sensing trouble, Crawford adjusted by racing forward and diving on top of the puck an instant before Toffoli arrived.
The risk was obvious to the 21,824 fans at the United Center for the Blackhawks' 4-2 victory over the Kings in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals. So was the reason Crawford took it.
Crawford's confidence, growing even more quickly than his abundant playoff beard, made him believe he can make any play he wants.
Through two wins over the Kings, Crawford has.
"I feel like I've been pretty strong,'' Crawford said.
Has any playoff goalie been stronger?
The Hawks-Kings series has delivered on its promise to see an elite goaltender at the top of his game — and an opportunity to watch Jonathan Quick too. Crawford has outplayed the man considered by some the best goaltender in the world, the guy likely to represent Team USA at the 2014 Winter Olympics … perhaps against Crawford backstopping Team Canada?
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About 23 Intently Staring Goalies
23 Intently Staring Goalies comes from the 23 close-up photos of goalies that used to line the walls of my office.
On the good side, it kept down interruptions, but it also made sure I had to leave my trash outside my door if I wanted it picked up.
I've been watching and analyzing goaltenders for going on 40 years. Some of that was spent drawing goalies on my grade 8 math homework. Then it was taking my card decks and printouts to Indianapolis Racer games. Luckily, the Internet took off, and by 1991 I was half of the duo that would ultimately become the Plaidworks hockey mailing lists. I wrote "Handicapping the Goalies' for the San Jose Sharks mailing list, and took a lot of photos of goalies in action. I have around 5000 slides of mostly goaltenders in action from 1989 through 2001 from the WHL, IHL and NHL. Since I've gone digital, I've added about 10,000 more images to the library. During summers and when the league went dark, I was reading through multiple SF By area news papers, tracking ice hockey from the 1917 recreational leagues up through the California Seals.
We'll be talking about goalies and goaltending. We'll talk about whats going on now, who's in the system, and when the doldrums hit, I'll haul something out of the big bag of history, or something from the photo archives. We'll talk about who's hot and why, and who's not and what they can do to get back on track. We'll take a look at the trends in scouting goalies, and why a style may work for one team but not another. I'll battle with my dictation software to get it to understand Bryzgalov and Bobrovsky.
It should be interesting--hope you want to come along for the ride!