Over parts of the last three seasons, the Blackhawks have lined up Nikolai Khabibulin, Cristobal Huet, Antti Niemi, Marty Turco and Corey Crawford in net.
And Crawford, as the latest to claim the number one goaltender job, is playing like a much different player than he has in the past.
“They saw it early in training camp, where he just seemed like a much different goaltender,” former Blackhawk and current analyst, Eddie Olczyk said on the Danny Mac Show when asked about Crawford’s jump this season.
LISTEN: Eddie Olyczk On The Danny Mac Show
The reason for the change in Crawford’s performance might be more mental than physical.
“And why do I think [Crawford has improved]?” Olczyk said. “It’s going into training camp for the first time in his pro career, he pretty much knew he was going to be with the big team for the first time…Now, did he know how much he was going to play? I highly doubt it. But he just looked like he came in looking really mature and comfortable.”
“I think Stephane Waite, the goaltending coach for the Blackhawks, has done an outstanding job with all of the goaltenders that have come through here,” Olczyk said.
Crawford, perhaps much like Niemi, is reaching his potential under the guidance of Waite. Niemi, at times last season, looked like a dominant goalie and helped lead the Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup Championship. However, this season Niemi has struggled to keep pucks out of the net in San Jose.
“But Crawford just looks bigger,” Olyczk said. “He looks much more in control and I think, between the ears, he knew he was going to be with the big club. And the way he’s played, he’s earned the number one position.”