Should the Chicago Blackhawks Pull the Plug on Corey Crawford?

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistJune 20, 2013

Corey Crawford has been exposed in goal for the Chicago Blackhawks.

His team may have picked up a thrilling 6-5 overtime victory that squared the Stanley Cup Final with the Boston Bruins at 2-2, but he had a shaky performance in net. All of the goals he allowed came on shots that were directed at his glove hand.

After the first two games of the finals, Crawford was mentioned as one of the leading candidates for the Conn Smythe Trophy. But he was shaky throughout Game 4 and nearly gave the game to the Bruins even though the Blackhawks were quite a bit better than they had demonstrated in Game 3.

When you give up five goals on 33 shots and the Bruins are clearly targeting a shaky glove, is it time to think about benching Crawford in favor of backup Ray Emery?

It's a question that coach Joel Quenneville has three full days to consider, since the Bruins and Blackhawks won't play Game 5 until Saturday night at the United Center in Chicago.

Crawford acknowledged that he knows the Bruins are looking to his glove side with nearly every shot they take.

“Well, 99 percent of their shots are going glove side, so I don’t know what you would say," Crawford said to the media following Game 4. "I can’t start thinking about that. That’s when you get 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.”

The Bruins appear to be in his head and they know it, according to WEEI (Boston) reporter Joe Haggerty.

A smiling @tylerseguin92 on plan now that Corey Crawford knows Bruins going glove high: "Go blocker side? I know you guys are thinking it"

— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) June 20, 2013


Overall, Crawford's performance has been stellar in the regular season and the playoffs. He has started every game the Blackhawks have played in the postseason and he has a 1.86 goals against average, a .931 save percentage and one shutout.

But history says that if Quenneville did want to change goalies, there would not be any reason to doubt Emery. He enjoyed a fantastic season with the Blackhawks, playing in 21 games during the regular season and posting a 17-1 record with a 1.94 GAA and a .922 goals against average. He had a number of spectacular performances during the season and fans appreciated his ability to make big saves at the most important moments.

There's just one problem with the idea of Quenneville tapping Emery on the shoulder and telling him it's his turn: He has not played a game since April 24.

Emery started for the Blackhawks against the Edmonton Oilers that day, but he came out of the game with a lower-body injury at the 13:49 mark of the first period. He told Chris Kuc of  the Chicago Tribune that he was fully healthy in May and that he would be ready if he was called upon to play in the postseason.

If Quenneville thought that Emery could do a better job than Crawford, he would be compelled to make the switch. But there's no evidence to back up such a decision.

Making a goalie change at this point in the Stanley Cup Final would be unprecedented. It's one thing to replace the starting netminder because of an injury or struggles early in the playoffs, but making the move during the championship round would bring about a torrent of second-guessing that could cost a coach his job if the switch did not work out properly.

The Blackhawks are returning home in a tied series with the Bruins. Crawford's overall performance has been outstanding, even though he may appear vulnerable at the moment.

Quenneville needs to keep him in goal for the Blackhawks. If he's fretting about his goaltender's performance, he's not doing it publicly.

"Corey has been great for us all year, all playoffs," Quenneville told the media after Game 4. "He just moves forward. Commend him. We got the win. You know, he'll be fine."