Blackhawks’ Corey Crawford gets no love for his glove in Cup final
Goaltender can’t catch a break, despite winning, after surrendering five goals on his glove side in Game 5
Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford surrenders a goal glove-side in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday at TD Garden in Boston.
Photograph by: Brian Babineau, NHLI via Getty Images
CHICAGO — Corey Crawford’s catching glove — what we used to call a “trapper” back when they were the size of a first baseman’s mitt, with maybe a six-inch cuff — is like all modern goalie gloves, roughly the circumference of a Chinese wok.
It is frankly amazing that the Boston Bruins could miss it five times in a single game, let alone on purpose.
But it’s all there on video: the Bruins scored five goals in Wednesday night’s 6-5 overtime Game 4 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, and all five were on the goalie’s glove side.
Some consider this mere happenstance. Long, screened shots. One that came back off the glass behind the net, bounced on the roof of the cage and right onto Patrice Bergeron’s stick in the goal crease. Not exactly a masterpiece of strategic planning, that one.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, who is about as revealing of his actual thoughts in an interview session as your average clam, basically says it was just one of those games when pucks were going in, both ways, and there’s nothing to see here, so move along, folks.
“He's fine. I think that the scrutiny of goaltending at any stage of the season is at a different level of any other player, and I guess it's even more out there now that you're in the Final,” said Coach Q.
“But Corey just seems to move forward, whatever the challenge is: the next shot, the next game. He's excited about the opportunity. He won a big game for us, and that's where we're at.”
Of course, he also said of Marian Hossa, who didn’t practise again Friday: “He’s fine.”
So take that for what it’s worth.
On the chance that it might be more than coincidence, though, reporters began seeking further opinion, such as from the Blackhawks’ highest-scoring forward, Patrick Sharp.
About Corey’s glove ...
“I tried today and he stopped me glove side, so hopefully he’s got it all figured out,” said Sharp, tongue-in-cheek. “Who knows if that’s a once-in-a-lifetime type of game of if they’ve figured something out? It’s not like Corey can start cheating glove side, because those guys are such good shooters they’d pick him apart.
“I’ve seen goals go in all different ways and I’ve seen him make saves
all different ways. I like Corey in there.”
Crawford, to his credit, knows it was no coincidence. There is such a thing as luck in the playoffs, but patterns as pronounced as the Bruins’ shooting chart are no accident.
“Well, 99 per cent of the shots are going glove side. I don’t know what you would say,” said the 28-year-old from Montreal, drafted 10 years ago by Chicago but a backup to Antti Niemi during their 2010 Cup run.
“I can’t start thinking about that. That’s when you start getting in trouble when you start thinking everything is going to go glove. I’m just going to play the way I’ve been playing and stick with that.
“Last series they were talking about my blocker. Both sides are bad, I guess.”
“We're trying to put pucks on net, and they're going in on that side,” said the Bruins’ Tyler Seguin. “So, maybe the wise thing to do next game is go blocker.
“You guys were all thinking it, so ...”
All right, so the basic premise — that a goaltender who’s two victories away from winning a Stanley Cup has a huge hole in his game, but it took until the Cup final for a team to target it — is a little thin.
So is the notion that a team could have gotten this far without a lot of terrific stuff from the ’keeper.
Crawford, when he’s on, is a cookie-cutter big goaltender who plays the angles, smothers a lot of shots right on the Hawks’ Indian head logo, and covers the bottom of the net with his long legs.
And yet, there are those who will tell you Crawford’s technique with the glove hand is unconventional, that he holds it too high to begin with, that he’s vulnerable both high and just over the pad when in the butterfly position. When he makes a clean catch, it’s a Hollywood production, Patrick Roy-style, maybe because it happens so rarely.
Should the Hawks be worried?
Someone asked Quenneville, knowing full well what the answer would be, whether there was a point at which he would consider going to the bullpen for Ray Emery, considering he had a better regular-season record than Crawford, the same goals-against average and got more love than Crawford from the Vezina Trophy voters (and played in the 2007 Cup final for Ottawa).
“No, not all,” said Quenneville, who’s much too smart to set a goalie controversy in motion this late in the game. “We’re very comfortable with Corey. Corey has been rock solid all year for us. And he’s the biggest reason we’re here today.”
Back in Boston, the Bruins’ backstop was defending himself on the basis of the six goals he gave up, the same night Crawford surrendered five.
“Well, every goal is stoppable but I don’t think there were any weak ones,” said Tuukka Rask, who actually did lose the game. Crawford, it turns out, was the winner.
“They were just mistakes (that) piled up, and I wasn’t able to bail our guys out,” said Rask, whose all-world playoff numbers took a hit. “Sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t.”
For the record, no one asked Claude Julien whether he planned to to stick with Rask, or go to Anton Khudobin for Game 5 here Saturday (5 p.m., Pacific time, CBC, NBC).
The trick to staying sane for a goalkeeper, Crawford said, is selective amnesia.
“Have a short memory. There were obviously some goals I wasn’t too happy with. I’m never happy with any goals, but a couple more than the others,” he said. “I don’t know if there’s an adjustment to make. Just go out there, read and react.”
And catch the puck, if at all possible. That, too.
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