There has been a lot of talk lately about the goaltending situation for the Chicago Blackhawks, and much of it has been predicated upon the notion that Corey Crawford isn’t capable of guiding his team through the playoffs.
Most of the arguments stem from the idea that Ray Emery, as a veteran, is better equipped, and his slightly superior numbers over Crawford’s seem to fit that narrative.
That’s what makes the news that emerged Friday so unpalatable to Blackhawks fans.
Emery, who left Wednesday’s game with the Edmonton Oilers in the first period, will not make the trip with the team down to St. Louis for the Hawks’ final regular season game on Saturday. This news probably means, much to the chagrin of some fans, that it will be Crawford in net when the playoffs begin next week.
The question, then, is do these irritated fans have a legitimate beef? A look at Crawford’s numbers against the eight teams that have either clinched a playoff spot (or, in Columbus’ case, still mathematically in the race) this season suggests otherwise:
Crawford hasn’t been particularly dominant against some inferior competition, with games against Colorado and Edmonton sticking out from earlier in the season. Against playoff clubs, however, he seems to really step up his game. His save percentage of .933 against playoff teams is a good deal better than his .925 overall, and his GAA is 1.85 in those games, which is also slightly better than his regular season number of 1.98.
Against teams whom the Blackhawks could play in the first round of the playoffs (Minnesota, Detroit, and Columbus), Crawford is also very good. He has an incredible .958 save percentage in those games, and his GAA is just a shade over one, with 10 goals allowed in eight games.
Numbers don’t always tell the whole story, especially with defensive-reliant numbers like shots faced and goals allowed, but in Crawford’s case, the writing is on the wall. He is just as capable of backstopping the Hawks to a Stanley Cup championship as Emery is.