by PuckStopsHere on 12/20/13 at 12:37 AM ET
Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks is the top goalie on the top team in the NHL. Some have argued that he is a candidate for the Canadian Olympic Team as a result of this situation. I have argued that Crawford is not a great goalie. He is a modern Chris Osgood or a Marc-Andre Fleury. He is an adequate starting goalie on a very good team and this causes people to overrate him.
Crawford has been out with a lower body injury on December 8th. Since he has been out, rookie Antti Raanta has taken over in the Chicago goal. Raanta has five wins and one loss since the injury occurred. He has posted a .921 saves percentage and a 2.01 GAA in that time. These are very good numbers. They are better than the numbers Crawford has been posting - .907 saves percentage and 2.47 GAA. Raanta has been better than Crawford. This isn't a good argument for Crawford being an indispensible part of the Hawks lineup.
Raanta is not your average NHL rookie goalie. He has put up some strong numbers in Finland before coming to the NHL. An argument can be made that he was the best goalie not in the NHL last summer. He may be a better goalie than Crawford. It is far too early to make that conclusion with confidence. We need to see Raanta play regularly in the NHL for a much larger sample of games to make any firm conclusions about him. It is not uncommon for a goalie to have a hot streak - and this may be one of them. The NHL scouts have yet to figure out his game. They may find weaknesses in it that he cannot overcome.
The argument that Corey Crawford is a top goalie is a weak one. He may get lots of wins, but wins are a team stat. All of his stats are influenced by the team he plays with. In order to see how much Chicago's defence can help a goalie's numbers, we need only look at last year's backup goalie Ray Emery. In Chicago he posted a .922 saves percentage and a 1.94 GAA. In Philadelphia this season his numbers are .891 and 3.02. That difference is probably exaggerated in Emery's case, but it shows that playing behind the Chicago defence makes a goalie look better than he is. It has made Corey Crawford look better than he is. Now that Crawford is replaced, at least temporarily, we are seeing that other goalies can do his job. Antti Raanta seems like just as good a goalie, if not better. Corey Crawford is not an irreplaceable part of the Blackhawks.
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