All the build up, analysis, and media day frenzy has lead up to this, an Original Six Stanley Cup Final matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Boston Bruins. Now if you’ve been watching ESPN lately and been bombarded by coverage of the glorious, Miami Heat, you might not realize the historical significance of this final. The Hawks and Bruins final will be the first Original Six Finals matchup since the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers in 1979, and if you’re a hockey fan it simply does not get better than this.
So lets rewind to a little over a week ago when the Hawks were preparing to take on the Kings. All the talk was about the defending champions and their all-mighty goalie, Jonathan Quick. But where was the talk about Corey Crawford? Heading into the series, Crawford was just tenths behind Quick in goals against average and save percentage. Well the series unfolded and Quick imploded and the Hawks took the series in five games, contrary to the experts beliefs.
And now here we stand again. All the talk is about Boston’s goalie Tuukka Rask (or is it Rory Mcilroy) and how amazing he has been in the Bruins playoff run. Well here’s a look at the numbers; Rask is allowing 1.75 GAA with a .943 save percentage in the 2013 playoffs while Crawford is allwoing 1.74 GAA with a .935 save percentage. Clearly, the numbers are very close.
Away from the numbers, Corey Crawford has to be the goalie of choice in the series. In his three seasons in the playoffs, Crawford has allowed just three goals in two game sevens, Rask has allowed four goals in one game seven (against the Maple Leafs, come on). Also, Crawford has a 7-2 record in games when his team in facing elimination and stood on his head against the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 in 2011 but still got the loss in overtime, thanks a lot Chris Campoli.
In the one elimination game that Rask played in, he allowed four goals but managed to get the win because the Maple Leafs turned into the Chicago Cubs in the final ten minutes of the game. From that point on in the playoffs, it’s hard to say Rask faced that much pressure or adversity. The second round he beat the Rangers and heck, event their coach admitted they suck.
In the third round, his team man handled Sid the kid and his teammates. Now I’m not ripping on Rask, he is a heck of a goalie. But when it comes down to it, Crawford has more experience battling through adversity and keeping his team in games. That’s why I would take 50 over 40 any game.
If you are a stubborn Crawford hater like I once was, you may need some more convincing facts to be confident in Crawford. So here it is. Niemi after three rounds in 2010: .920 save %. Crawford in 2013: .935 save %, 6 fewer goals allowed in 1 more game and 116:08 more minutes.
When two teams are so evenly matched like the Hawks and Bruins are, goaltending tends to be the key to winning that big shinny silver trophy. So I believe that when this series goes to Game 7, which I will certainly be at, Corey Crawford will make a couple of key saves that ignites the Hawks to win their second Cup in four years.