Even a career year can’t seem to earn Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford the respect he deserves. But he’s very much OK with that.
Patrick Kane, the NHL’s leading scorer by a baker’s dozen points, had just painted a masterpiece Friday in Toronto, notching his first regular season hat trick with an assist to boot. And, as Kane’s Chicago Blackhawks prepared to catch their bus after tossing the Toronto Maple Leafs aside, reporters justifiably swarmed him.
Sitting in the corner, completely unattended, not a hair out of place, was goaltender Corey Crawford. He had the night off after standing on his head 24 hours earlier versus the Montreal Canadiens. Even following a rest day, however, it felt a little strange to see him ignored in the corner. His six shutouts lead the NHL. No goaltender has appeared in more games than Crawford’s 38, only one has more than his 26 wins and only five have a higher save percentage than his .929. Crawford has shown incredible durability and consistency, neither of which he has been known for in the past, and he’s as much a reason as anyone for Chicago’s 11-game winning streak.
Yet Crawford remains overlooked. He shares a roster with Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith, or a Calder Trophy, three Conn Smythes, two Norrises, a Selke and four Olympic gold medals. All that star power and hardware cast a gargantuan shadow, one poised to widen this June if and when Kane secures his first Art Ross and Hart Trophies.
Crawford seems destined to carry “along for the ride” status among the Hawks’ modern-day dynasty brigade forever. The fact Pekka Rinne, in the middle of a down year, earned All-Star Game status above Crawford supports that theory. It doesn’t seem to matter how good Crawford’s numbers get.
A few of us in the THN office have nicknamed Crawford ‘Rodney Dangerfield,’ the man who “gets no respect.” Crawford let out a healthy guffaw upon learning that on Friday. But what does he think of the way he’s treated? Is he bitter about his All-Star Game snub?
“No,” he said. “It is what it is. It would’ve been nice to go, but to take a little time off is always nice, too.”
Crawford intends to spend the all-star break somewhere warm and sunny and recharge the batteries. It’s a smart move for a guy who’s started 79 percent of his team’s games and is on pace to shatter his career high of 59 regular-season appearances. Where he’s going will remain a mystery.
“Yeah, I’m not gonna tell you that,” Crawford said, laughing again. “It’s a nice try, though.”
It was smart thinking, as Blackhawks fans are numerous enough and passionate enough to show up wherever Crawford vacations if they find out the destination. That’s a compliment to them, by the way. The funny thing is, though, there was no follow-up question coming from this end, no intent to learn the exact co-ordinates of where Crawford will get his R&R. There’s a guardedness about Crawford, like he’s most comfortable remaining somewhat of a mystery man. He’s believable when he spouts the cliché that he puts team goals above all others, that he only cares about winning and not about individual accolades and that he’s excited to see GM Stan Bowman’s radical roster editions gelling so well. Crawford isn’t too interested in his outstanding 2015-16 numbers, either.
“Actually, I’ve had better years,” he said. “The lockout (2012-13) season and a couple years ago (2013-14). Maybe wins-wise this year, but I’m also playing more games. So really it’s just a matter of going out there and playing hard each game. The individual stuff will come if the team’s doing well.”
What really backs up that Crawford doesn’t care about his individual numbers: he’s wrong about them. His six shutouts this season are a career high. His .929 SP will be, too, if it holds up. He only needs eight more wins to set a new personal best. His 1.94 goals-against average in 2012-13 remains a high watermark but came in eight fewer appearances than he has already in 2015-16. He’s absolutely having a career year, and he doesn’t seem to know that, so he must really be a team-first guy.
So perhaps Crawford should just enjoy catching his well-earned rays next weekend and avoid fixing what ain’t broke. Sure, he’s never finished higher than sixth in Vezina Trophy voting, but he covets another piece of hardware far more. He’s won it twice already and is on track to challenge for a third one this June. He works well from the shadows and appears content to stay there.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin