Kukla's Korner

23 Intently Staring Goalies

Crawford Proving the Naysayers Wrong

There was a lot of "Good News/Bad News" in the Chicago Blackhawks chatter in the past few weeks.

The Good News: First in the West,  won Presidents Cup, and the team is trending up.

The Bad News: Emery's hurt.

The talk followed the same pattern: "When's Emery back?"  "Do we know how hurt he is?"  "Are the Blackhawks going to have to play Crawford". "Well, Crawford's okay, but he din't shine like Emery."

The worry: Crawford wasn't going to be able to rise the occasion, and the Blackhawks could find themselves having to spend a lot more time in their defensive zone.

There's a difference between hearing and letting it get to you. Crawford's heard it all, but he isn't letting it affect how he does his job.

More  from Chris Kuc at the Chicago Tribune:

Corey Crawford heard the talk. He heard some fans and media members saying the only thing that could hold the Blackhawks back this season was his goaltending.

Here's the thing: Crawford heard it, but he never believed it. Instead, he believed in himself.

"There is always going to be someone who has an opinion and is going to say something negative, so for me to waste my time and worry about that is just going to take away from what I can do on the ice," Crawford told the Tribune.

What Crawford has done on the ice this season is combine with Ray Emery to form the NHL's top goaltending tandem. They led the Hawks to the top seed in the Western Conference playoffs that begin with Game 1 against the Wild on Tuesday night at the United Center.

Crawford and Emery captured the Jennings Trophy as the goalies who allowed the fewest goals during the regular season.

"Me and Ray took a lot of scrutiny and a lot of heat after the season and throughout the summer," Crawford said. "So for both of us to come back and prove to everyone we belong here and we can do the job means a lot."

The accolades came after a 2011-12 season during which Crawford played well, but which ended in disaster when he allowed soft goals in consecutive overtime games to the Coyotes in the first round of a postseason that ended much sooner than any of the Hawks imagined. Looking back, the 28-year-old Montreal native realized that low point helped him raise his game.

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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!