By Jay Zawaski-
(CBS) All season long, Corey Crawford’s performance has been one of the most discussed Blackhawk topics. This summer, after helping the Hawks capture their second Stanley Cup in four seasons, the goaltender was rewarded with a six-year, $36-million contract. That salary put Crawford in the same company as the NHL’s elite goaltenders, all while increasing the intensity of the spotlight on his performance.
While Crawford had played pretty well early in the season, he had shown a habit of allowing “soft” or questionable goals every couple of games. Pair those goals with his infamous Game 4 Stanley Cup Final performance, in which Crawford surrendered five goals, all on the glove side, and you can see how some would begin to question the goaltender’s worth and ability.
Fast forward to Wednesday night in Anaheim. Crawford posted his most impressive performance of the season, shutting out the NHL’s top team and second-ranked offense. His positioning was stellar all night, and he kept the Hawks in the game while they wore out a path to the penalty box in the first two periods.
Wednesday was another strong game in what’s been a very solid streak for Crawford. Over his last 10 games, Crawford is 5-1-4 and has surrendered 20 goals in 590 minutes. That’s good for a 2.03 goals against average. He’s also stopped 261 of 281 shots over those 10 games, for a .928 save percentage.
Those are elite numbers, worthy of a $6 million annual contact.
The Hawks have one game remaining before the Olympic break. Time will tell if the prolonged rest will help or hurt Crawford, who’s playing his best hockey of the season. Regardless, the NHL will be competing at a different level when the Olympic break ends. Teams will be jockeying for a playoff spot or positioning.
For the Blackhawks, keeping the puck out of their own net has been their biggest problem. If Crawford can pick up where he’s left off, the Hawks could be looking at another Presidents’ Trophy.
Jay Zawaski covers the Blackhawks for CBSChicago.com and 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @JayZawaski670.