Corey Crawford proves he can still handle starting workload for Blackhawks


SUNRISE, Fla. — Corey Crawford has never been afraid to say that he’s comfortable when he's getting consistent reps. He's been a starter throughout his entire NHL career and wants to have the net as often as he can.

When Robin Lehner signed in Chicago, it gave the Blackhawks two No. 1-type goaltenders. The goal was to divide the workload as evenly as possible to keep both guys fresh, which worked for most of the season.

But after falling out of playoff contention and trading Lehner to the Vegas Golden Knights, the Blackhawks have fully handed the keys back to Crawford as goalie No. 1. And he's showing exactly why he prefers to string together consecutive starts.

For the first time all season, Crawford has started five straight. In those games, he has a 3-2-0 record with a 2.52 goals-against average and .932 save percentage. His goals 4.47 goals saved above average ranks third among goaltenders over that span and his .927 high-danger save percentage ranks second among goaltenders with at least three starts, according to Natural Stat Trick.

“It’s nice," Crawford said after stopping 38 of 40 shots in a 3-2 shootout win over the Florida Panthers on Saturday. “It kind of takes a little bit once you sit and you have to get back in. Just the little details. Reading stuff through screens and staying a little bit more patient. When you’re not playing that much, you’re kind of chasing shots and getting a little antsy to make saves. Once you’re in there for a while, things come together and you’re able to read a little bit better.”

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At one point in the season, Crawford and Lehner were both at the top of their games and even Crawford admitted it made sense to continue alternating. But now, we’re seeing what happens when goaltenders get into a consistent rhythm.

Crawford isn’t just giving his team a chance to win on a nightly basis. He's a big reason why they are winning.

"He’s been excellent," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "He’s been good all year but another level the last month or two, and it’s good for our group."

The Blackhawks have 17 regular-season games left. The plan is for the 35-year-old netminder to start a majority of them.

Set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, Crawford is playing his best hockey of the season and a strong finish down the stretch would certainly strengthen the case that he can still be an everyday starter in the NHL, and play at a high level. And it should be for the Blackhawks.

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