Following a 5-3 loss to the Washington Capitals on Sunday night, the idea that Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford might be close to the end of his NHL career was becoming more of a regular thought for fans.

The 34-year-old has been playing in the NHL for 14 years, starting off as a reliever, who then made his way to being a backup goalie for Marty Turco in the 2010-11 season, to now being the starting goaltender for the Blackhawks for the last nine seasons.  

2013 stanley cup
Corey Crawford lifts the Stanley Cup after beating the Boston Bruins in 2013 in six games. | VIA: Bob Horsch

Crawford has helped the Hawks acquire their last three Stanley Cups, won the William M. Jennings Trophy for the 2014-15 season, and is a gold medal winner, but does that make him right for this Chicago Blackhawks team?

It is easy to get caught up in Crawford’s glory days where he posted an average save percentage of .911 in an average of 57 games during the span of the four seasons (2013-17). However, all the stats don’t matter because that was when the Canadian native was healthy and in his prime. The 6’2” goalie suffered from a back-to-back season with injuries that sat him for a total of 80 games: in the 2017-18 season, he suffered an upper-body injury and was out indefinitely for 52 games, which was followed by a concussion in the 2018-19 season, where he was out for 28 games. With 82 games in a season, Crawford was out almost a full season with injuries. 

crawford injury
Corey Crawford assisted off the ice by a Blackhawks trainer following his second concussion incident of the season on Dec. 16, 2017. | VIA: Brian Cassella

Now, being back on the ice for the 2019-20 season, Crawford has some improving to do as his save percentage has gone down to .891. With the season only just starting, it is normal to start slow, but a 1-3 record for Crawford in his four starts in a bit alarming for fans and the team. Crawford has let up an average of 3.59 goals in those four games, and let up four goals to the Washington Capitals Sunday night. However, we have seen this type of behavior from Crawford before in the 2015-2016 season where the Hawks started 2-3-0 in their first five games of the season and went on the force game seven in the first round of the playoffs against the Blues.

Certainly it cannot be solely Crawford’s fault that the Hawks are losing games. The lack of good defense has been a problem for the Blackhawks for the past handful of seasons. Without protection and shot-blocking, all the responsibility is put on Crawford to come up with big saves to keep the Hawks out of the hole, and while sometimes he can do it, most of the time, the team is asking for too much out of the netminder.

A Look into the Blackhawks Defense Against the Capitals

Looking at the goals Washington scored on Crawford, a sloppy turnover behind the net from Duncan Keith allowed T.J. Oshie to swipe the puck and score early in the first. Then, in the second period, a missed pass from Kane to Toews led to a 2-on-1 breakaway for the Capitals. In the third, the Hawks’ inability to clear the puck from their zone lead to Washington taking a 3-1 lead. The final goal was caused by Brent Seabrook taking a fall in front of Crawford. This lead to Tom Wilson being opened on the right side of the crease with Crawford tangled up on the left.

With the irregular schedule for the Hawks this season, only playing six games since the regular season started four weeks ago, it has been hard for Crawford, let alone the team, to find their weakness and correct them to form a more perfect rhythm when they are on the ice.

Hopefully, the upcoming schedule with five games in a week will allow Crawford to get back to performing at his normal level because when he gets into the right mindset and is healthy, Crawford is a tough goalie to go up against. 

Featured photo: ABC News
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