When St. Louis Blues goaltender Jaroslav Halak seeks inspiration for the coming season, he should think of two words:
Just two seasons back Crawford was a mess for the Blackhawks. He flopped about in his crease, lunging after the puck like it was a barn mouse. He flailed defensively at shots. Pucks seemed to fly right through his body into the net, like a Las Vegas magic act.
His goals-against average soared from 2.30 to 2.72. His save percentage shrunk from .917 to .903. Come playoff time, he posted a dismal .893 save percentage in six games as Chicago caught an early cab.
He entered last season sharing his duty with Ray Emery. He went 19-5-5 with a 1.94 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage. (Emery was even better: 17-1-0 with a 1.94 save percentage and a .922 save percentage.)
Crawford carried the load in goal as the Blackhawks rolled to another Stanley Cup. He played in 23 games and posted brilliant ratios (1.84/.932) during postseason play.
His reward: A six-year, $36 million contract extension that starts in 2014-15. (Emery’s return was more meager, a one-year, $1.65 million deal in Philadelphia.)
“There was never a question in our minds that we want to commit to him because it’s the most important position we have,” Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman told reporters in a conference call Monday. “We have a lot of faith in his ability to continue, and he’s a young goalie. He certainly worked hard to get himself to the NHL. Now he’s proven he can do it at the highest level.”
For more on Emery and Halak, check out my story on STLToday.com.