Chicago, IL — The Chicago Blackhawks have had a roller coaster ride of a season this year so far. With only seventeen games left they have been one of the streakiest teams in the NHL. They went on a nine game losing streak followed by a four game winning streak followed by a three game losing streak and are currently on a two game winning streak run. No one best exemplifies these struggles this year with consistency and is a microcosm of the team than their goaltender Corey Crawford.
Goalie is the toughest position in all of sports to play. What makes this position so difficult is unlike the rest of their team the goalie always stands alone. He can’t talk to his team mates much during a game or discuss things on the bench because he is always alone in his net. No one understands what a goalie goes through except another goalie. Even if team mates want to help they really can’t because they do not understand the complexities of the position especially on an NHL level.
Every time a goal goes into his net all eyes in the arena are on him unlike a defenseman if he makes a mistake he can leave the ice and blend in with his team mates on the bench. Not the goalie he must stay at the scene of the crime and try to put it behind him and push on. The media and fans always seem to hang too much of a teams defeat on the goaltenders and maybe too much credit for some tight wins as well.
One of the greatest goaltenders of all time sums up the intricacies of the goaltending position best.
“Because the demands on a goalie are mostly mental, it means that for a goalie, the biggest enemy is himself. Not a puck, not an opponent, not a quirk of size or style. Him. The stress and anxiety he feels when he plays, the fear of failing, the fear of being embarrassed, the fear of being physically hurt, all the symptoms of his position, in constant ebb and flow, but never disappearing. The successful goalie understands these neuroses, accepts them, and puts them under control. The unsuccessful goalie is distracted by them, his mind in knots, his body quickly following.” – Ken Dryden, goalie, Montreal Canadiens
The most important part of Dryden’s quote is the “putting them under control” which will be different for each goalie how they can achieve this. There’s no question right now Corey Crawford has lost some confidence and is questioning himself i sure. What we all need to remember is there is no one blueprint for being a successful goalie as each goalie has their own special skills and yes psyche.
Corey Crawford is going through something right now that no one will understand or possibly could which puts everything on him to figure out. Last year it was Crawford that I believe kept the Hawks close enough in the regular season to even have a chance to make the playoffs. I call his stellar goaltending play during that season the “Crawford Zone”.
We all saw what Corey is capable of. The Blackhawks saw this as well which, is why they wanted him as their #1 goaltender and gave him a three year $8million contract. Maybe Corey is pushing to hard to live up to the contract, maybe he is trying too hard to help his defensemen, maybe the defense of the entire team has left him hanging out to dry, maybe his positioning needs work, maybe he loses his net and maybe just maybe this is just something every goalie must get through on their own.
The one thing I know is the “Crawford Zone” is still within Corey Crawford. I’ve seen glimpses of it this year. The task for Corey is to play in the “Crawford Zone” consistently. Consistency has been an issue however for the entire team not just Corey. If Corey can take any consolation it is that he is not alone among his goalie brethren.
Ryan Miller the Viezna trophy winning USA olympic hockey goaltender for the Buffalo Sabres went through the same thing earlier in the year. He now is on a run to push the Sabres to the playoffs. So consistency in the goaltending position is something that I think every goalie will face at some point in their careers.
If you go to the NHL’s site for goalie stats it lists 82 goalies for stats and for every other position there is 860. This just illustrates what an exclusive club the goalie position is. Night in and night out they face being barraged by pucks from the best shooters in the world and are the last line of defense for their team. No wonder they feel anxiety and pressures, they wouldn’t be normal if they didn’t.
Statistically Corey Crawford is having a horrid year both in Save percentage and goals against average. What Corey needs to remember is that the stat that really counts is wins and he is ranked 22nd out of those 82 goalies which puts him in the top 27% of NHL goalies. I know though this is little consolation for him. What maybe of consolation is with how up and down this season has been, it is only a matter of time until he gets a chance in the Blackhawks’ net again.
I have no idea what Corey is going through or how to help except that I know eventually he will figure it out himself and until then Hawks fans will have to stand pat and support him. Blackhawks fans all like Crawford when he makes outstanding saves twitter burns up with tweets of “Crawsome”. Blackhawks fans all know that hockey is a team sport and good defense is dependent on all six team members on the ice to work as a unit.
This year has been a crazy ride and who knows how the ride will end. As a Blackhawks fan I hope they can sustain attacks in the offensive zone, control the neutral zone, have great positioning in the defensive zone and make a deep playoff run by entering through the “Crawford Zone”.