Pittsburgh Penguins v Chicago Blackhawks

Blackhawks coach blames Corey Crawford’s struggles on sophomore slump


Perhaps the Chicago Blackhawks’ defense allowed quality chances in the limited shots that Corey Crawford saw against the Phoenix Coyotes, but it still seemed pretty clear that Crawford’s faults were magnified in that series. That first-round loss might just have been the low point in a series of struggles for Crawford after a surprisingly successful rookie season, but coach Joel Quenneville hinted to Jesse Rogers that it might have just been a sophomore slump.

“You look at the history of goaltenders around the league … there is a little bit of a bounce factor in that second year,” Quenneville said. “A number of top goalies have had that career path. We anticipate Corey getting right back on track.”

That may be true, but there are plenty of netminders who essentially were one-hit wonders. Guys like Andrew Raycroft and Steve Mason earned Calder Trophies only to see their career outlooks decline from “star of the future” to scratching and clawing just to retain a backup gig.

The difference between being a successful NHL goalie and a “sieve” often comes down to stoping one or two percent more shots than the other guy, so any number of factors can explain a downfall. Perhaps a breakout rookie believes his own hype and rests on his laurels a bit. Maybe it’s like a major league pitcher; after a year or so, people figure out your weaknesses and you can’t “sneak up” on anybody anymore.

Of course, there’s also the distinct possibility that a given goalie just isn’t very good.

Really, the only time Crawford looked truly exceptional was when the Blackhawks almost came back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Vancouver Canucks in a series in 2011. Crawford racked up an impressive .927 save percentage in that seven-game series but eventually fell to Vancouver.

His 2010-11 numbers were solid, but not quite spectacular. No doubt about it, Crawford’s stats tumbled last season, forcing Chicago to do some soul searching. They seem content to roll with Crawford – who has two more years left on his contract – for now, but we’ll find out soon enough if 2011-12 was a bump in the road or merely a sign of things to come.

Measure of revenge? Red Wings bottle Lightning

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In some ways, it really felt like their first-round series.

For all the talent on both ends of the rink with the Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning, each squad can really smother opponents defensively when things go that way.

Through two periods, the two teams were very quiet. Things really picked up when Justin Abdelkader unleashed a big hit, a moment that injected enough life into the proceedings for the Red Wings to eventually build a 3-1 win.

Maybe they’re slipping under the radar a bit compared to previous iterations of the team, but it’s interesting that the Red Wings are now undefeated in three games.

They’ve been impressive at times, too, outscoring opponents by a combined score of 11-4.

Call it a refreshing time after Mike Babcock or merely carryover from a subtly solid run last season, but either way, the Red Wings may just be able to keep up their end of a brewing rivalry.

Hands of gold: Connor McDavid scores his first NHL goal


Taking three games to score your first NHL goal isn’t a big deal, unless you’re someone like Connor McDavid.

The mega-hyped wunderkind must feel relieved to finally find the net, as he tied tonight’s Edmonton Oilers – Dallas Stars skirmish with a 2-2 deflection goal, which you can watch above this post’s headline.

To no surprise, there were plenty of reactions, including Pierre LeBrun’s tweet (which inspired part of this headline).

Of course, there were the inevitable Wayne Gretzky comparisons:

Interesting thing you might not consider: Stars fans will have to stomach this one even more frequently than that time Patrik Stefan biffed that empty-netter (also against the Oilers):

McDavid may have also delivered his first questionable check, too: