Before The Shot: Crawford Crease Containment Clinic
I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” It’s a proverbial phrase that encourages people to make the most out of a tough situation. As goaltenders, we find ourselves in these situations from time to time.
In some cases, they come at low pressure points in a game. In others, like the one Corey Crawford found himself in during Tuesday night’s game against the Nashville Predators, there’s a bit more on the line.
In this Before the Shot analysis, I specifically want to isolate one movement made by Crawford that helped him secure good positioning to make the save. Let’s take a look!
The scoreboard sets the stage for this situation. The Blackhawks are up 3-2 over the Predators with just over six seconds left in regulation time. This play begins just after the Predators had won a neutral zone face off. James Neal (18) receives a pass from the left side boards and has newly acquired forward Ryan Johansen (92) streaking down the right side, heading towards the goal.
By now it’s clear that Crawford has elected to follow Neal’s pass to Johansen by sliding.
While it seems as though Crawford’s body is just a fraction of a second behind the play, he is following the puck with his eyes the entire time – from the moment Neal makes the pass, to the puck traveling on the ice, and finally reaching Johansen’s stick.
By the time Johansen receives the puck, he hangs onto it for just a brief moment, but it’s enough for Crawford’s body to catch up to what his eyes have already been following. The thing is, Crawford’s also competing with momentum. If Crawford ends up sliding too far to his left, it will open up more room on the right side (against the grain) for Johansen.
So, how does Crawford control how far he slides?
Crawford controls how far he slides to his left by using his left leg to help manage his path of direction. Many refer to this skill as “crease containment”, the ability to recognize the farthest distance a goalie has to move to make a save and still be in good position for any secondary or tertiary opportunities.
Here you can see more closely how Crawford makes contact with the post with his left skate blade. This allows him to slow down the momentum he generated by sliding across and put himself in a better position to make the save.
Lastly, here you can see how square Crawford ends up on the play. And by making contact with his skate blade, Crawford actually gains a few inches of depth. It’s a very small amount, but the game is a matter of inches one way or the other.
There’s no question Crawford’s save helped secure the win for the Blackhawks. It was a timely save. As it was pointed out to me by fellow goalie coach and friend, Dan Stewart, it was an important save for the Blackhawks within the overall context of the game. After all, Crawford made this save shortly after the Predators scored to pull themselves within one goal of tying the game. He managed to refocus and not let what happened impact him.
In this situation, you can consider the time of the game, the fact that the Predators had scored, and perhaps even the decision to slide as the lemons.
The save? Lemonade. And because the win tied head coach Joel Quenneville for second place with Al Arbour with 782 wins, lemonade and a peanut butter sandwich.
~ Eli Rassi is currently the goaltending coach with the Carleton Place Jr. “A” Canadians in the Central Canada Hockey League. He is also an instructor and consultant with Complete Goaltending Development (CGD). CGD offers on-ice group, semi-private and private training programs, and consulting services for minor hockey associations, for goaltenders at all levels in Ottawa at its training facility in the city’s West end, the Complete Hockey Development Centre. For more information, please visit www.chdcentre.com or www.cgdgoalies.com