List the goaltenders that the Tampa Bay Lightning have faced in this playoff run.
Petr Mrazek. Carey Price. Henrik Lundqvist. Corey Crawford.
Now imagine the Lightning, who led the league in goal scoring this season, are in a seven-game series against one of these goaltenders and they're getting absolutely stonewalled. Who would you guess first? Second?
Would Corey Crawford be your last guess?
Probably. And that's not to take anything away from Crawford, who, like Ben Bishop, is a notch above league average and typically more than enough for the Blackhawks to win on any given night. He's proven that over and over again, this season and in past playoff and Cup runs.
But through five games of the Stanley Cup Final -- including a trio of 2-1 Chicago wins to take the 3-2 series lead -- Crawford has seen more success against the Lightning than any of his netminding peers. (Numbers vs. Tampa Bay in the playoffs, via NHL.com and War-on-Ice.com).
|Overall SV%||5v5 Adjusted SV%|
Crawford's overall numbers are bolstered by a return to woeful form for the Lightning power play, which has converted on just 1 of its opportunities, shooting 7.1% in the process after shooting 17.3% at 5v4 to lead the league during the regular season.
As Game 6 at United Center draws closer, expect to see more and more articles that wax poetic on Chicago's experience as a major factor for their performance in the 2-1 wins, and how that experience gives them an edge in what is now "do or die" territory for a young Lightning squad.
Oddly, some of those same writers and analysts will also trumpet how "tight" and "even" this series has been played, while attributing the slight edge to the Hawks almost entirely to experience and none to the play of Corey Crawford, who has been outstanding, particularly over the last two games as Chicago turned a 2-1 series deficit into a 3-2 lead with a chance to win it all at home.
Hockey can be a terrifyingly random game sometimes, one where a critical error or bad bounce can be crippling. The Lightning have seen more than their fair share of bad luck in this Final. But luck can turn, too; let's not forget that Corey Crawford lost his net to Scott Darling for a not insignificant amount of time early in the playoffs. It's not as if the Lightning have failed to generate scoring chances, even against Chicago's best defenders and two-way forwards. The opportunities -- something Tampa Bay can control -- are there. The finishing ability simply hasn't been, which has to be immensely frustrating, particularly for captain Steven Stamkos.
Still, if Crawford plays well again, and the Lightning run ends this way -- by the hand of a hot goaltender -- let's try to give some of the credit where it's due: to the guy in red between the pipes.