Corey Crawford main reason Blackhawks are contenders once again

Photo Credit: Gregg Forwerck/ Getty Images

Photo Credit: Gregg Forwerck/ Getty Images

It is obvious if the NHL ended today that Patrick Kane would be the 2015-16 MVP. But from a Blackhawks standpoint, one could argue that the Blackhawks have two MVPs on their roster – that being Kane and Corey Crawford.

Kane is one of the reasons why the Blackhawks are playing like they are, but Corey Crawford is the main reason as to why the Blackhawks are in first place in the Central Division, first place in the Western Conference and Stanley Cup contenders once again.

Each sport is different in the ways to win a championship. In baseball you need starting pitching and a decent bullpen to win a World Series. We saw that with the Mets and how their starting pitching beat the Chicago Cubs and eventually with the Kansas City Royals winning the World Series. In football you need a starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl. Nowadays in basketball you need guys who can shoot the ball in order to win a championship. Each of the last three NBA champions have had multiple guys who could shoot the long ball at a high percentage. In hockey, ultimately you need a goaltender who can play at an elite level in order to win a Stanley Cup.

Looking back at the last five Stanley Cup winners, it were the goalies that played a pivotal role in each Stanley Cup win.

Last season, Crawford was a top 10 goalie in save percentage during the regular season and in the postseason. Crawford had a slow start in last years playoffs, but began performing at an elite level in the second round of the playoffs. In the Stanley Cup finals, Crawford had one bad game in which he gave up four goals, but rebounded to help the Blackhawks win their third Stanley Cup in six seasons.

In 2013-14, the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup beating the New York Rangers to win their second Stanley Cup in three years. During that regular season, Kings goalie Jonathan Quick was a top 10 goalie in goals against average. According to NHL.com, Quick had a 2.07 GAA. In the playoffs, the Kings rode Jonathan Quick to the promise land who won all 16 games for them and eventually their second Stanley Cup win.

Chicago was in familiar territory again in 2012-13 when they won their second Stanley Cup in four years during a shorten season due to the lockout. Crawford was a top 3 goalie with a 1.94 GAA, .926 save percentage and a 19-5-5 record. During the postseason he was the number one goalie going 16-7, 1.84 GAA and .932 save percentage, according to ESPN.com. Even though Patrick Kane was the Most Valuable Player of the playoffs, Crawford arguably could have been the MVP of the postseason.

In 2011-12, the Kings won the Stanley Cup behind goalie Jonathan Quick. Quick had a better season in 2011-12 when they won their first Stanley Cup in three years. During the regular season, Quick was 35-21-13, .929 save percentage and 1.95 GAA, according to ESPN.com. In the playoffs, Quick went 16-4 with a 1.44 GAA and .946 save percentage, according to ESPN.com. Quick was the MVP of the playoffs and looking at their team during the regular season, they did not have one player in the top 10 in scoring. Anze Kopitar finished 15th in scoring.

Going back to the 2010-11 season, the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup behind goaltender Tim Thomas. Thomas went 35-11-9 with a 2.00 GAA in the regular season and in the playoffs he won all 16 games and had a 1.98 GAA, according to NHL.com.

In the NHL, it is hard to win a Stanley Cup without a solid goaltender in the net.

Currently, the two top teams in the NHL are the Washington Capitals and the Chicago Blackhawks. The reason why they are the two top teams this season is because of their goaltenders. Capitals goalie Braden Holtby leads the league in wins with 30 and has a .929 save percentage and 2.07 GAA. Crawford is right behind Holtby in wins with 29 and has a .931 save percentage and 2.11 GAA, according to NHL.com.

Looking back at the last 11 Stanley Cup winners, only one goalie was the MVP during the regular season and that was last year with Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price. The other 10 were forwards and the last time an MVP won a Stanley Cup was back in 2004 when Martin St. Louis won the MVP and Stanley Cup as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Hockey teams ride and die with their goaltender. Fortunately, the Blackhawks have had two goalies that have led them to three Stanley Cup titles in the last six seasons. The Blackhawks rode Antti Niemi to the finish line in 2009-10 and with Corey Crawford in 2012-13 and 2014-15.

Crawford had been sensational this season posting up career numbers. If Kane keeps up his fantastic play, he will be this seasons MVP. However, if Crawford keeps up his performance, the Blackhawks will be in a great situation heading into the playoffs with the chance of doing something this team has yet to accomplish – winning back-to-back Stanley Cups.

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