2013 Stanley Cup Final: Have the Boston Bruins Found Corey Crawford's Weakness?

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistJune 18, 2013

Jun 17, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand (63) attempts a shot against Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) during the third period in game three of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Michael Ivins-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Ivins-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Blackhawks would never have gotten to the Stanley Cup Final if Corey Crawford had not played stellar goal in the first three rounds of the playoffs.

He stopped the Minnesota Wild in the first round with little trouble. He helped the Blackhawks overcome a 3-1 deficit against the Detroit Red Wings in the conference semifinal. He won a goaltending duel with Jonathan Quick in the Western Conference Final.

The Blackhawks have no reason to complain about Corey Crawford. He has a 1.74 goals against average, a .936 save percentage and he has one shutout during the postseason.

As well as Crawford has played, he is not perfect. Neither is Tuukka Rask for that matter. All goalies have vulnerable areas and can be beaten from time to time.

The Blackhawks' job is to figure out how they can get pucks by Rask and then execute when they find out where his weak spot is. Through the first three games, they have not done that.

However, it appears the Bruins have found an area they can exploit with Crawford. It's not something that is going to turn into a deluge of goals like the Bruins were able to get when they played Roberto Luongo and the Vancouver Canucks two years ago. They pinned an eight-spot on the Canucks in Game 3 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.

NBC analyst Pierre McGuire pointed out the Bruins are trying to fire high shots on Crawford whenever they can (43-second mark). They have scored seven goals in the first three games of the series and all of them have gone at least halfway up the net. Two of the goals have gone high to the blocker side. Five have gone high to the glove side.

The Bruins opened the scoring in the Stanley Cup Final with two Milan Lucic goals in Game 1. The first was a hard wrist shot to the upper corner on the glove side and the second was a slap shot to the same area.

Few goalies would have been in a position to stop the first Lucic goal, but the second one was not a good goal.

They also scored on Patrice Bergeron's slap shot that rang in off the post high on the glove side.

In Game 2, Chris Kelly tied the game up on a goal-mouth scramble. The puck seemed to go to the blocker side, but Kelly was not targeting any area. He was just trying to get good wood on the puck for his first goal of the postseason.

The game remained tied until deep into the first overtime when Adam McQuaid worked the puck to Tyler Seguin. Instead of firing a shot himself, Seguin made a perfect pass to Daniel Paille. With the puck on his tape, Paille unfurled a wrister that went high and off the post to Crawford's glove side. It angled back into the net and the Bruins had their overtime win.

Paille opened the scoring in Game 3  with another quick shot to the glove side. Those two game-winners were clearly the biggest goals of Paille's NHL career.

Crawford should have stopped Lucic's second goal and he also may have had a chance on Paille's Game 3 score.

It's doubtful that many other goalies would have been able to stop any of the other shots that the Bruins have scored on in the Stanley Cup Final.

If the Blackhawks are going to steal Game 4 in Boston, Crawford can't give the Bruins a thing. If he gives up more than a goal or two, it may be difficult for his teammates to beat Rask three times.

The Blackhawks scored four goals in the triple overtime 4-3 victory in in Game 1, but they have only scored one one goal since then.

Chicago dominated the first period in Game 2, but they have not scored since then and they will carry a 122:26 scoreless streak into Game 3.

Hockey Night in Canada analyst and former Bruins head coach Don Cherry told Boston radio hosts Michael Felger and Tony Massarotti that the Blackhawks are not playing with the kind of effort needed to win at this point and they showed him "nothing" in Game 3.

That's why the Blackhawks are going to need a near-perfect effort from Crawford if they are going to bounce back.

Head coach Joel Quenneville is going to have to do something to rally his players so they challenge the Bruins for every loose puck. if he can do that, Crawford is going to have to do his part and stop those shots that come whistling in high on his glove side.