Corey Crawford has become the goaltender of the present for the Chicago Blackhawks last year and was successful in his first full campaign. Entering his second year as starting goalie, the expectations for Crawford will be heightened.
To be a finalist for the Vezina Trophy is a tremendous honor and is a tough task to accomplish. The Blackhawks will make Crawford into a top goalie by their play, but with Crawford's skill, he could reach that accomplishment this year.
So here are five reasons that Crawford will be a finalist for the Vezina Trophy.
After coming back from a 3-0 deficit in the series, the Blackhawks took the Western Conference champion Canucks to overtime in Game 7.
Crawford gave up a goal to Alex Burrows on a turnover, ending the Blackhawks' season.
This experience, as well as the experience of playing over 50 games last year will help Crawford this season.
He knows what to expect when it comes to fatigue and how to be mentally ready for every game. Last year's loss in the first round will help him and the team this year.
Both Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith had disappointing years last season.
After the Stanley Cup, they did not play their best hockey in their attempt to defend the Cup.
This year, both Seabrook and Keith will be ready to go and will play more like they did in 2009-10 than 2010-11.
This will lessen the load for Crawford as he will have two of the top defenders in the game to help him out.
These two players will be a huge help to Crawford and the team this season.
The Blackhawks have one of the deepest blue-lines in the NHL with Sami Lepisto and Steve Montador manning the third pair.
Nik Hjalmersson and Nick Leddy round out the six defensemen for the Hawks. This will be big for helping Crawford.
Along the same lines, new signing Andrew Brunette is a good two-way forward along with pest Daniel Carcillo.
The Blackhawks' forwards can score, but they play good defense too.
The Blackhawks are offensively gifted. Scoring should not be a problem for them which lessens the pressure on Crawford to win every game for the Hawks.
Some games the Blackhawks will rely upon Crawford, especially in games against the top half of the Western Conference.
Crawford will be ready to take on the best of the West when they come his way and he will prove that he will be a top goalie in the conference.
The Vezina Trophy winner and finalists have to have a decent team around them.
Martin Brodeur is a great goalie, but he was helped out a lot by the trap wasn't he?
Tim Thomas had an all-time great season last year, but doesn't playing a defensive-minded team game help?
Crawford has been given a good defense and scoring. Vezina winners and finalists almost always come from winning teams.
If the Blackhawks make it far in the playoffs and have an outstanding regular season (I have them winning the Stanley Cup) then Crawford will naturally get more attention.
The only way the Blackhawks are going to make it to the Stanley Cup is with good goaltending play. Crawford will provide that and more.
Is Corey Crawford the most talented goalie in the NHL? Nowhere even close.
Is he in the right place at the right time? Yes he is.
This Blackhawks team is a complete team and is one of the most talented in the NHL.
Crawford can take advantage of this talent and improvement of Keith and Seabrook and use it to his benefit.
Corey Crawford can either be the hero for the Blackhawks by giving them good goaltending or he could be the reason they don't live up to expectations.
If he struggles, the Blackhawks are going to be in trouble because Ray Emery is not the answer either.
Bet on Crawford to have a big year for Chicago and get recognized for it by being a Vezina finalist.
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