By ChiTribe Sports Writer Samantha Marvy
As the NHL All-Star break looms, I find myself asking, ‘Are the Blackhawks better without their star goaltender and two-time Stanley Cup Champion Corey Crawford?’ The Blackhawks are not currently sitting in a playoff position and are a long shot to make the playoffs this season; an odd pill to swallow for Chicago Blackhawks fans. Prior to the 2017-2018 the Blackhawks had made the playoffs ten straight seasons, winning three Stanley Cup Championships in 6 years and were deemed a “Dynasty” by Sports Illustrated. The core of the team still remains, yet the Blackhawks currently sit in last place of the Central Division with a middling-at-best record of 16-22-9.
Before getting injured with his second concussion in as many seasons on December 16, 2018, Crawford had started in goal for 23 games and logged a record of 6-14-2 – good for a .318 winning percentage – and a 3.28 goals against average. That is nearly one full goal higher than his career average. Let’s note that Crawford was not getting much defensive help from his team. Top defensemen, based on total time on ice, Duncan Keith and Erik Gustafsson, were both minuses in the 23 games Crawford started.
Not only was the defense struggling with Crawford in net, but the offense did not offer much goal support. Ice time leaders Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane played fair in those 23 games: Toews had 20 points in the 23 games that Crawford started and was a +/- 0 in those games, while all-star Kane had 21 points and was a -8 in 23 games where Crawford got the starting nod.
Since Crawford’s injury, backup goalies Cam Ward and rookie Collin Delia have had the opportunity to showcase their talent. Ward, a Stanley Cup Champion and Conn Smythe Trophy winner as a rookie in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes, was drafted in 2002 and has been in the league since 2006. Delia, 24, went undrafted out of college and signed an entry level contract with the Blackhawks in 2017. Last season, he started in only one game for the Blackhawks, a 6-2 win on March 29 over the Winnipeg Jets. In his first three starts following Crawford’s injury, Delia went 3-0-0 with a 1.66 goals against average. While he has cooled down as of late, he still has a 3-1-3 record on the season. Likewise, Cam Ward has gone 3-2-0 since the injury to Crawford. Delia and Ward have combined to earn 15 points out of a possible 24, which is not bad for a team expected to sputter with absence of their star goalie. Not only has the backup duo lifted the Blackhawks’ record, but goalie play has helped Kane find his footing.
Since December 16th, Kane has reverted to the seemingly unstoppable form Blackhawks fans are used to seeing. During the current 12-game span, Kane has logged 10 goals and 12 assists, good for 22 points. His partner in crime Toews has added 11 points of his own. With the goalie play picking up, and overall team play improving, I started taking notes and texting my dad – also a Blackhawks fan – after every game. Are the Blackhawks better without Corey Crawford? Well, the numbers certainly are convincing.
When Crawford went down with a concussion on December 16, many of the Chicago Blackhawks Jewish fanbase might have recited the Mi Sheberach, the prayer for a speedy and healthy recovery. After all, we all remember how last season spiraled out of control after Crawford suffered a severe concussion just after Christmas, a time when booking a reservation for Chinese food should be our only concern.
Let’s be clear, I love Crawford. He has helped bring back the glory days of Chicago hockey, and I wish him the speediest of recoveries. But with the way the Blackhawks – particularly Ward and Delia – are playing right now, I wouldn’t say it is the worst thing that could happen to the squad. Would it be a bad thing if Crawford did not play a single minute the rest of the season? I’m not sure. But what I do know is that if the Blackhawks continue on this unprecedented pace with Kane lighting up the scoreboard, a wildcard berth may not be entirely out of the question. And anything can happen in the playoffs. Next time you’re in temple, don’t forget to pray for Crawford’s recovery, but maybe it is best for Crawford and the Blackhawks to go their separate ways, at least for the remainder of this season.
*Statistics from 01/14 at New Jersey not included
**All statistics from http://www.espn.com/nhl/team/stats/_/name/chi/chicago-blackhawks
Originally from Deerfield IL, Samantha moved to Minneapolis, MN for school where she attends the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and will graduate in December of 2019. Samantha has been able to double major in two fields that are important to her, Sport Management and Strategic Communications. Samantha works as a Basketball Operations Assistant for the Minnesota Timberwolves and this past summer was a Marketing Intern for the Minnesota Vikings. Sports has always been important to Samantha as she believes sports have a way of healing all, connecting to everyone and helping society. While sports are and have always been a major part of her life, Samantha’s other interests include reality TV like The Bachelor and Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Netflix is also on her list of favorite things to do in her free time. Although she’s moved to Minnesota, Chicago (and Chicago sports) will always have her heart!
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