Tag: starting goalie

Chicago Blackhawks v Vancouver Canucks - Game Seven

Can Corey Crawford avoid the dreaded sophomore slump?

The last we saw of Corey Crawford, he was skating off the ice in Vancouver after Alex Burrows buried the series-clinching goal over his blocker in overtime of Game 7. The Canucks went on to get within 60 minutes of their first Stanley Cup in franchise history; while the Blackhawks were sent home trying to figure out what went wrong in the season they were supposed to defend Lord Stanley’s chalice. Slow starts, lack of motivation at the beginning of the season, or an injury in the playoffs. Plenty of people had plenty of answers. But one of the biggest question marks going into the season evolved into one of the team’s strengths by the end of the season.

The NHL was introduced to Corey Crawford.

With the early exit of 2010-11 in the rearview mirror, Crawford looks to build on the momentum he created for himself in the second half of last season. He came into camp as Marty Turco’s back-up—at best he hoped to platoon with the former Dallas Stars netminder. But it only took a couple of months to show the Hawks coaching staff that he gave the team the best opportunity to win on a nightly basis. By the end of the season, he had 33 wins, a .917 save percentage, 2.30 goals against, and was viewed by many to be a viable Calder Trophy candidate. But that was last year.

There’s a difference between competing for a place on the team and understanding that the starting job is already a done-deal. Last season, he was competing just to turn himself into an NHL goaltender on an NHL roster. Now that particular fuel is gone with the thirst for an NHL job freshly quenched. Will he be able to find the same drive while he tries to take the next step from pleasant surprise to the man that the entire organization is depending on this season? Crawford has already spoken about the difference this training camp:

“There is a little bit different feeling. It’s nice to know you have a three-year deal coming into camp, but at the same time I’m so focused to earn that ice time and show the guys – even the new guys – that you’re the guy to gain their confidence.”

He’s not the only one who has confidence that he’ll be able to put up a repeat performance this season. Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville expects the same type of performance from his young netminder this season. In fact, he expects him to be even better.

“He really shouldered a lot for us last year,” Quenneville said. “He was consistent in big games and big settings. Nothing changes his approach and you’ve got to commend him for doing that. We see him only growing from those levels. He can continue to improve and hopefully elevate his game to become a top goaltender in our League.”

Surely the same thing was said about Steve Mason after his Calder Trophy winning rookie season in Columbus. The trick for Crawford will be to carry the same drive he had when he was trying to make the NHL this season. No longer is he simply trying to make the team—he has that part down. Now he’s trying to improve into a goaltender that will be around for years to come. For young players, and goaltenders in particular, it’s easier said than done.

Professional athletes aren’t trained to think about failure. If they put in the work, by and large they will succeed. That’s why they’re in the NHL to begin with. But sometimes younger players forget all of the hard work that it takes to get to the NHL and let the offseason training slip a bit in the offseason once they’ve accomplished themselves. We’ll see if Crawford can perform for the Hawks like he did last season. If he can improve upon his numbers last season, Chicago will be a dangerous team in the Western Conference. If not, they better figure that back-up goaltending role in a hurry.

Peter Laviolette names Sergei Bobrovsky Flyers starting goalie for playoffs

Sergei Bobrovsky

When the Flyers were able to get Michael Leighton clear from re-entry waivers to rejoin the team today, many Flyers fans began to fret and worry about what that could do to the goaltending set up. After all, Leighton carried the Flyers into the Stanley Cup playoffs while Brian Boucher carried part of the load in the playoffs.

With curiosity piqued and Flyers fans scurrying for answers while the team goes through a slide at the end of the season, coach Peter Laviolette is calming nerves today by naming rookie Sergei Bobrovsky the team’s starter for the playoffs. Chuck Gormley of the Courier-Post Online gets the story from the Flyers head man.

“Our playoff starters are set. In Game One., Bob’s going to start and Boosh will back up. They’ve been great all year. They’ve been terrific.”

Bobrovsky, 22, is 28-13-7 with a 2.51 GAA and .917 save percentage.

“Paul (Holmgren) made the decision yesterday was the time for (Leighton) to come back up here,” Laviolette said. “He gives us more depth in that spot with his experience. But to start the playoffs, Bob will be the guy in net.”

As we saw last year, guys without a history in the Stanley Cup playoffs managed to do really well with Antti Niemi ultimately helping Chicago win it all as a first-year starter. Bobrovsky’s a bit younger than Niemi (by five years) and going with a guy who’s not even 23 years-old yet as your main man in goal seems a bit risky.

Running with a virtually unknown entity in goal in the playoffs is nothing new for Philly. They did so last year with Leighton and Boucher and will do it again with Bobrovsky and Boucher with Leighton waiting in the wings in case of trouble. It’s good to have that cushion for sure, but if things turn ugly early on, it’s a breeding ground for panic decisions and one way or another, the Flyers will have their hands full in the playoffs be it against the Rangers, Buffalo, Montreal, or Tampa Bay.

In “Bob” they trust for now, but after rotating guys all season, don’t be shocked if he gets the hook if he’s intimidated by the setting.