The Chicago Blackhawks managed to win a 6-5 thriller over the Boston Bruins Wednesday night in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, but if there is one dominant narrative after the contest, it is this: Corey Crawford has a serious glove issue.
More specifically, everyone and their mother has been hammering Crawford in the late hours of Wednesday and the early hours of Thursday for the amount of goals he has given up during this series when the puck is shot to his glove side. According to Deadspin.com’s Barry Petchesky, Crawford gave up eight goals (out of 12 overall) to his glove side and gave up a slew of them in Game 4.
Crawford, to his credit, did recognize the pattern that emerged last night:
“It’s pretty obvious. I can’t start thinking about it; that’s when I get myself in trouble if I start thinking about that…I’m just going to keep playing my game, prepare the way I have and play the way I play. I can’t start thinking they’re going to go glove every time. If they end up switching it up, then I’m in trouble.”
Crawford’s assertion is dead on in this instance. If the Bruins can make that kind of a team-wide adjustment to a perceived weakness, then they can surely spot if he is overcorrecting for his shortcomings, and will capitalize by firing pucks to his stick side.
At the end of Petchesky’s article, he brought up the story of how New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist overcame his own difficulties in that area, using a bigger catching glove and coming out of the net more.
While Petchesky claims that those adjustments took years to make, the fact is that Crawford already has the tools in his arsenal to make the necessary changes. If you look at video of Crawford after he gives up a cheap goal (Game 1 of the Minnesota series, Game 4 of the Detroit series), what emerges is a pattern. He gets scared straight, so to speak, and becomes an increasingly aggressive goaltender as he locks in. He comes out of the net to take away shooting angles. He pokechecks the puck with authority (something he actually did a few times in the late stages of Game 4). He fights his way through screens.
All of those things are going to be absolutely critical if he is going to bounce back from what was simply a bad game. As bad as he looked, he has shown throughout the playoffs that he is capable of flashing some excellent leather on his glove side. Especially in the Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Kings, Crawford was snaring everything in sight, and only allowed two goals on that side during the five game series, one of which was a weird knuckler from Slava Voynov that came as a result of his stick breaking on the shot.
There are some folks who are concerned about Crawford’s play, and an even smaller group who are actively calling for Ray Emery to take over in net for the Hawks. Those folks are right to point out that adjustments need to be made, but to suggest that Crawford isn’t capable of doing so, or that putting in a backup goaltender who hasn’t played since April is the answer to the issue, is simply foolish.