What a difference a game off can make, huh? Corey Crawford, who had appeared in 15 consecutive games for the Blackhawks, finally got a night off this week. When he returned to the goal Friday night in Dallas, he looked refreshed and refocused, stopping 28 of 29 shots. If that wasn't enough, he stood tall in an 11 round shootout victory.
It's not to say that he hasn't played well, but there has been a far from subtle outcry from a notable chunk of Blackhawk fans who have been unhappy with Crawford's play this season. His statistics have been nothing to write home about, but it's important to note the Hawks' recent penchant for defensive zone turnovers. In fact, that was the exact situation that led to the Stars' lone goal Friday in Dallas.
I've been struggling to define just what it is about Crawford that makes his game so scrutinized. Of course, there was Game 4 in Boston during the Stanley Cup Final last season. Crawford allowed 5 goals, all glove side, in the Hawks' 6-5 win. But if that game was the definitive game for Crawford, why isn't Tuukka Rask, who allowed 6 goals in that game, met with the same scrutiny?
Every goalie in the NHL has a bad game now and again. So why every Crawford mistake so amplified by so many? Could it be that Hawks fans are spoiled? They have (at least) 4 elite forwards. They have 3 elite defensemen. What many Hawks fans fail to realize is the fact that not every player on the roster can be the best at their position. Crawford is a good goalie. A goalie good enough to win (another) Stanley Cup. Is he a Hall of Famer? No. Is he a top 5 goalie? Probably not, but he's certainly top 10.
I look at Crawford like I look at Jay Cutler. The fact that he's not Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers doesn't mean he sucks. The same can be said for Crawford. No, he's not Henrik Lundqvist or Jonathan Quick, but he has a Stanley Cup, and could very well end up with a handful by the time it's all said an done.
Since Chicago hockey has taken off in 2009, I truly believe that the Hawks have gained thousands and thousands of Blackhawk fans, but I'm not sure they're hockey fans. Sure, they'll catch every Hawks game, but I don't sense the league wide knowledge that fans have other the other major sports leagues. Obviously, these things take time, but a little bit of league-wide perspective would help many to judge Crawford more fairly.
To all my readers, I regret to say that this will be the final edition of the Red Light District. I've been writing here since 2009, and have experienced some of the best moments of my hockey life while authoring this blog. Marian Hossa's magical debut, the Vancouver limo pics, two Stanley Cups, two gut wrenching first round exits, the 2010 purge and the record breaking run in 2013.
I want to thank Jimmy Greenfield, Julie DeCaro and all the great people at ChicagoNow for the opportunity to give my hockey thoughts a voice. Thanks to Rock Mamola, who got me in touch with Jimmy Greenfield in the first place and helped make this all possible.
I also want to thank everyone who took the time to read and share this blog. It's been a tremendous honor to write for all of you. The feedback has been absolutely astounding since the blog's inception.
I'm not going far, however. Keep tuned to my Twitter account and Facebook for more information as my new writing comes to a screen near you.
Thank you so much for reading,