It's finally happened. At least I think it has.
For most of the 2013 hockey season, a large vocal portion of Blackhawk fans and critics have been critical of Corey Crawford. Never mind the fact that his 1.94 goals against average was good for third among goalies in the regular season. His save percentage of .927 was good for seventh. In the playoffs, Crawford is tops in goals against and second in save percentage.
Despite all that, it took last night's effort against the Boston Bruins to silence his critics.
Crawford was the difference in the Hawks' 4-3 triple overtime victory in Game One of the Stanley Cup Final. He made 51 saves, including this huge save on Patrice Bergeron after Zdeno Chara rang the post in the second overtime.
In fact, Bovada.lv has Crawford as a 7/4 favorite to win the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP.
It's been a long time coming for Crawford, who had struggled with soft goals and mental blocks in his career. Sure, the occasional soft goal still gets by Crawford (like they do for every goalie). This season, he's been able to rebound from a bad goal or a bad start and come back strong. His ability to shake off bad moment and recover has been difference this season.
Crawford has turned the corner in his NHL career. He's the Hawks goaltender of the present. With his contract up after next season, the Blackhawks will need to decide if he's their goaltender of the future.
Earlier this month, the Blackhawks signed Finnish goaltending sensation Antti Raanta to a one year deal. That makes Crawford's future very interesting. If Raanta can prove he's the next Jonas Hiller, the Hawks will have a tough decision on their hands.
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