In times of need, Corey Crawford is there to save the Blackhawks

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 01: Corey Crawford #50 of the Chicago Blackhawks sprawls to make a save against the Philadelphia Flyers at the United Center on November 1, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Flyers 3-0. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

CHICAGO – If you’re looking to get a true evaluation of the value of Blackhawks’ starting goaltender, just ask the new guy in town.

Cody Franson, who was signed this offseason, has gotten to know Corey Crawford just over the past few months. He faced him before in his career with the Sabres, then before that with the Maple Leafs, and Predators. But it’s something much different to have him as a teammates.

If  Franson thought Crawford was good when he faced him, his opinion has gone way up since he started backing him up in the Chicago defense.

“I always knew he was a good goalie, but until you actually play in front of him you don’t realize just how good he is,” said Franson of Crawford. “I think he’s probably one of those guys that people don’t necessarily talk about when they talk about (Carey) Price and (Jonathan) Quick or those guys. But I think he’s up there with those guys.”

If you doubted that before the 2017-2018 NHL season, than you’ve probably been convinced over the first month of the campaign. In eleven games, Crawford is allowing just 1.92 goals per game with a save percentage of 94.1 percent. Both of those rank in the Top 3 among goaltenders in the NHL, but his best efforts have been when the Blackhawks have needed him the most.

On opening night, he shut down the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins in allowing just one goal on 29 shots. In the first appearance against the Predators on October 14th – the first since Nashville knocked the Blackhawks out of the playoffs – Crawford allowed just a goal in a 2-1 overtime win.

His best so far was on Wednesday, when a struggling Blackhawks team limped home to face the Flyers after three-straight losses and five defeats in their last six games. With the offense still having trouble getting the scoring from the earlier part of the season going, Crawford stopped all 35 shots he faced from Philadelphia in a much-needed 3-0 victory over the Flyers.

“It’s nice,” said Crawford of his first shutout of the season and the 22nd of his career. “But like you said, winning is the most important thing. But, yeah, it does feel good. But we just have to build off that.”

Captain Jonathan Toews was a little more willing to throw the praise of Crawford, especially when the Blackhawks have had trouble shutting down the opposing offensive chances on defense at times early in the season.

“Crow is always there to find those second rebounds and those plays around the net that we were trying to clear,” said Toews of Crawford. “I just seems like he tracking the puck so well.”

He can help the Blackhawks string together back-to-back wins for the first time since the opening two games of the season against the Wild on Saturday night. A win would put the Blackhawks right in the middle of a jumbled-up Western Conference as teams jockey for early position.

But with No. 50 in the goal, Franson’s got faith the Blackhawks will have plenty of chances till the end.

“He makes big saves, he handles the puck as well as any of them, and he’s very sound positionally, and he’s a great teammate, he’s a character guy,” said Franson, who is getting to know more about Chicago hockey’s sometimes overlooked gem.