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2016 Playoff Preview: Corey Crawford vs. Brian Elliott

2016 Playoff Preview: Corey Crawford vs. Brian Elliott

The St. Louis Blues will ride the hot play of Brian Elliott, hoping to end a lengthy streak of playoff disappointments. It won’t be an easy task. They’re matched up against perennial contenders in the Chicago Blackhawks, who will have the steady Corey Crawford in goal.

Brian Elliott

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Last season, we kicked off our St. Louis Blues first round head-to-head with a look at a different Blues goaltender – but after what seems like decades of controversy in the Central Division team’s postseason depth chart, we’re finally getting to take a look at Brian Elliott.

A lower body injury midway through the season left Elliott out of the mix for parts of February and a chunk of March, but he’s having one of his most impressive seasons to date; with a .930 save percentage in all situations, Elliott looks like the goaltender to beat right now. He’ll walk away from the 2015-16 regular season with 41 appearances, going a massive 23-8-2 in that time and recording four shutouts.

Never one of the most aggressive goaltenders, the perception that Elliott runs ‘cold’ during important games has left him the perennial bridesmaid when it comes to playoff goaltending.

Seeing him get the early postseason nod could be a sign of increased influence from Martin Brodeur in the Blues’ front office, and for good reason; although he and Jake Allen ran fairly head-to-head in low danger situations and Allen holds the medium-danger save advantage, Elliott’s high-danger save percentage and overall strong performances this year have earned him the right to take the ice in game one. If you’re trusting the hot hand to continue for Elliott, this could be his year.

Corey Crawford

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Everyone’s favorite polarizing Vezina candidate, Corey Crawford is the unsurprising starter for the Chicago Blackhawks as they take on their divisional rivals.

Crawford doesn’t hold the statistical advantage over Elliott, but he does hold an edge when it comes to consistency and longevity. His stats this year are nearly identical to those he put up last year, and he’s played around 10 more games per year than Elliott; with a 35-18-4 record this year and a second consecutive season with a .924 raw save percentage, it’s hard to be worried that ‘Crow’ is going to regress to any kind of sub-standard mean in the coming weeks.

Early in his career, Crawford developed a reputation for inconsistency and an inability to make some necessary saves, but his maturity in net has become apparent enough in recent years that even the mainstream media is starting to give him the respect he’s earned.

Glove-side goals have always been an achilles heel for Crawford, but he’s positionally sound and tracks the play before the shot admirably. He’s gifted with a strong defensive system in front of him – the Blackhawks are a force, no matter how you spin it – but when he’s locked in, Corey Crawford is a big part of why the Chicago roster is so successful.

The toughest thing the Blackhawks may face with Crawford could be his ‘shakeability’, though. Every goaltender has the ability to be rattled, but – and it may be due to a strong system in front of him that further exacerbates his few poor games – Crawford’s ‘off’ games seem that much worse than most other bona fide NHL starters. When he has a poor game, the Blackhawks may be best served to put in Darling over him rather than riding him until he improves.

About The Author

Cat Silverman

Catherine is the first American in a long line of Canadians, making her the black sheep before she even decided she wasn't going to be a Leafs fan. Writer for Today's Slapshot, InGoal Magazine, and, coach in the Arizona Coyotes Department of Hockey Development. Goalies are not voodoo.

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