I feel like this is going to be one of the things I harp on all season and you’re all going to get sick of it, so just be forewarned. Other than maybe Duncan Keith, Corey Crawford is probably going to be the most important Hawk this season and the biggest bellwether on how this season goes, good or bad. And for a team that has done its best to take the goalie out of the equation (which they really haven’t done all that well the past two seasons), it’s kind of an uncomfortable spot to be in.
2014: 57 Appearances, 2.27 GAA, .924 SV%, .931 at even-strength (6th in the league among starters)
2014 Playoffs: 20 appearances, 2.31 GAA, .924 SV% .929 at evens
It’s always funny with Crow, because there’s so much noise surrounding him and a fairly noisy section of the fanbase (and possibly organization) that’s always looking to move on from him that any chink in the armor is blown up as evidence. You don’t even realize that Crow put up his second-best regular season performance and playoff performance of his career, and what he has basically always given the Hawks. Crow’s career SV% is .917 and GAA is 2.34. Basically, those are above average, not other-worldly, numbers. Which makes Crow an above-average goalie.
However, if you look at Crow’s numbers through a slightly different prism, that 2013 shortened campaign (that would be the first of two he took home a Jennings, for those scoring at home) he only saw slightly over 26 shots per game. This past one (the other Jennings one), Crow was seeing basically 30 shots per game (29.9 to be exactly). His SV% only wavers by two points between the two seasons, and the greater shot volume explains the difference in GAA, 2.27 vs. 1.84. Crow was what he always is, but he had to do it facing a lot more rubber.
Of course, Crow missed some time with an injury sustained during a lost argument with an HOB staircase, and the team certainly hung him out to dry for it (I bet they thought that would be their biggest PR headache they’d deal with over the next year then. You want to hear God laugh…). It took Crow a while to get back from his injury and clearly shaken confidence from whatever, be it the organization’s handling of him or just the rust from missing a month. Crow’s January and February were only just ok, but his March and April were nothing short of exemplary (.933 and .944 SV% respectively, and on some nights his teammates clearly didn’t care).
’15-’16 Outlook: Sadly, it’s unlikely that Crow is going to see less shots than he did last season, now that the defense has been stripped of Oduya and Hammer, Keith, and Seabrook have another Cup run’s worth of miles on the legs. And Trevor Daley sure as fuck isn’t going to be confused with the term “shot supression.” If the third pairing is even out there, TVR is going to have to prove to be something special to keep the shots at bay as well with whoever he’s paired with.
Quite simply, the Hawks are going to need Crow to maintain a SV% around .922-.924. I would expect they see somewhere around 30 shots per game as they did for the last four months of last season (and most of the playoffs, really), and anything less than that is going to see the Hawks giving up three goals per game and requiring some real fireworks offensively to keep winning.
He’ll have to do that while it will be something of an open secret that some in the fanbase, organization, and possibly the coach, will be dying for Scott Darling to prove to be an NHL starter (spoiler alert: he won’t) so the Hawks can get some cap relief in the summer of 2016 by moving Crow along. There would be a long line of suitors, which should tell you something.
There’s no reason to think Crow won’t provide those numbers though. Other than his 2012 blip, the dude’s been pretty metronomic in his production. He certainly won’t be a disaster, and is more than likely to be as he’s always been, above-average. Whether that’s enough for this Hawks team… well, that’s going to be a real question. It really would help if Crow can produce his best season ever. And even that won’t be enough for some.