Nashville Predators vs. Chicago Blackhawks Playoff Preview: The Goaltenders
Let's take a look at the guys between the pipes for Round 1...
We tried to find a goaltending expert for this, but it turns out we don't know any besides maybe Mitch Korn and he's all booked up right now. We'll just have to get started without him...
Nothing terribly frightening from Crawford this year, as he ranks outside the top 10 in virtually every category except penalty minutes (LOL) and and Sv%. Ok, that last one is pretty important I suppose. I'm sure there will be some Blackhawks fan or idiot Chicago columnist who can point to some 5th tier advanced metrics that prove he's the greatest of all-time, but for now, let's just use these (all stats via NHL.com):
As you might suspect, Crawford had an awesome playoffs in 2013, the last time the Blackhawks took home the Cup. Last year, he was a really, really expensive Carter Hutton (no offense). Which one will the Preds see this year? Let's hope for the Hutton version (no offense).
In case you missed it, Pekka Rinne had an outstanding year overall. He finished among the top 10 in several categories, including 2nd in wins and 3rd in GAA.
Great numbers, to be sure. But how did he finish? Um, not so great...
I think we're all a little troubled by this. Is he just a little tired from carrying such a heavy load all year? Are we seeing a little of what the nerds call Regression™? Was it more of a result of the entire team just not playing great in front of him? Here's Coach Laviolette from Sunday's media availability:
"I think he's done some good things throughout the course of the year, and I don't think it's really fair to push or point to one guy down the stretch, and our team needed to play better in certain areas down the stretch and we didn't. There were some games where I thought everybody played well enough where we could've won a game and that didn't happen either. So, I think that there were some tough breaks that happened. I thought that we played well enough to win in Colorado, it didn't happen. But those are just some of the tough breaks I think that happen down through the course of a year, and it happened to us down the stretch of the season."
"We're really I think a group and a team. When we were finding a little bit more success at the beginning of the year it was because of our team, and on the games that we struggled and didn't play the way that we need to, I think our team could've played a little better."
Certainly a strong argument from Coach there. If it is rest he needs, everything should be fine...he'll have almost a week off until Game 1, and home ice ensures he'll get to sleep in his own (probably extra-long) bed for a few nights longer.
What about the playoffs? Last time out, the Preds were out-sandpapered and out-curfewed by the Coyotes, but you can't pin any of that on Pekka...he was fantastic. And he went to bed on time.
I go out of my way to avoid Blackhawks games, but every once in a while a highlight comes through that's so spectacular you can't help but notice. With that in mind, I present to you the Highlight of the Year for Mr. Corey Crawford:
Good times. If I'm lucky enough to see one of these in person Wednesday or Friday, it will make my year.
I could be biased, but I think Pekka's highlight reel is a little more impressive (BTW don't forget to vote on your favorite plays of the year RIGHT HERE):
Open and shut case there, IMO. Let's finish off with a few random and probably biased links about these two very different competitors.
A Few Random and Probably Biased Links About These Two Very Different Competitors
Corey Crawford Sucks Forum-Talk-Sports.net
Corey Crawford injures foot at Rise Against concert - NHL on CBC Sports
Corey Crawford's Speech At The Blackhawks Parade Was Short And Profane-Deadspin
You Can Fit A Stanley Cup Through Corey Crawford's Glove Side-Deadspin
Crawford's Pads Are Obscene - Page 3 - HFBoards
Is Corey Crawford the Chicago Blackhawks' Weak Link? | Bleacher Report
Rinne Stops to Save a Fan's Birthday - Nashville Predators
Shea Weber, Pekka Rinne learn from their 'best buddy' | The Tennessean
Pekka Rinne Answers Preds Fans' Questions -Nashville Predators
Pekka Rinne: Masterton, Vezina, or Both?-The Hockey Writers
So, who has the edge? Cast your vote in our very scientific, fact-based poll below!
Which team has the edge in goal for Round 1?