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Blackhawks’ Corey Crawford can learn from Cup-winning goalie Jonathan Quick

The Hawks’ Corey Crawford is strong technically his instincts are underrated. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

The Hawks’ Corey Crawford is strong technically, and his instincts are underrated. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 14, 2012 6:47AM



LOS ANGELES — There’s no replicating the peculiar, albeit effective, way Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick athletically slides and dives to stop pucks and confronts shooters. It’s a style he alone possesses.

But goalies with hybrid styles are having similar success across the league, while others, such as the Blackhawks’ Corey Crawford, have struggled.

In today’s NHL, athletic, aggressive goalies who can play both the stand-up and butterfly styles, such as Quick, the Boston Bruins’ Tim Thomas, the New Jersey Devils’ Martin Brodeur, the Nashville Predators’ Pekka Rinne, the Buffalo Sabres’ Ryan Miller and the Phoenix Coyotes’ Mike Smith, are succeeding more than others.

‘‘Quick has been like that for three years,’’ Kings president of business operations and former NHL star Luc Robitaille said. ‘‘You look at his stats the last three years, they’re phenomenal.’’

Quick and Thomas have led their teams to the last two Stanley Cups and won Conn Smythe Trophies. Thomas has won two Vezina Trophies, and Quick is a finalist this year. Brodeur also has won two Vezina Trophies since 2005.

The success isn’t a coincidence, said former Hawks goalie Darren Pang, a TV analyst for the St. Louis Blues.

‘‘These are goalies that have very good hockey instincts,’’ Pang told the Sun-Times. ‘‘They aren’t guys who just rely on a 7 percent chance that it will go over their shoulder if you’re a left-hand shot on the right side.’’

Conversely, goalies such as Crawford, who rely on technique and positioning over their instincts and natural talents, have been exposed.

Pang pointed to the fundamental style acclaimed goalie coach Francois Allaire, now with Toronto Maple Leafs, preaches. Allaire worked marvels with Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Hall of Famer Patrick Roy. Crawford also has worked with him.

‘‘[But] the game has changed,’’ Pang said. ‘‘At one point prior to the [2004-05] lockout, a blocking, percentage-style goaltender was having success. It’s a very difficult system not only to learn but to believe in because it takes away your instincts.

‘‘I think we have a lot of goalies right now that are right in between. They think they’re blockers, but they came from athletic backgrounds, and now they’re stuck.’’

The game is faster now.

‘‘There wasn’t as much speed [before], and you didn’t have a lot of the east-west [plays],’’ Pang said. ‘‘That middle was clogged up, so all you had was shots on the dots and on the wings. It’s easy to come out and just block that because there was no other play. But now there is another play. . . . With east-west play, you have to have athleticism.’’

Goaltending is the Hawks’ biggest question mark after Crawford slumped last season, but general manager Stan Bowman continues to stand by him and Ray Emery.

Sliding side-to-side isn’t Emery’s strength after his hip surgery, and it’s too late for Crawford to alter his style completely. But Crawford’s approach has gotten him this far, and his athleticism and instincts are underrated. His success in shootouts is an example.

The key to Crawford’s — and the Hawks’ — success might be if goalie coach Stephane Waite can get him to break from the mold and be more instinctive and aggressive.

‘‘I’ve watched Corey a lot,’’ Pang said. ‘‘I’ve seen Corey play some phenomenal games, and I’ve seen him stuck . . . not knowing if he’s a blocker of the puck or an athlete of the puck. With the size that Crawford is, I’d personally like to see him get on top of his crease a little bit more, get that stance a little bit more athletic. He got to the NHL because he’s got something underneath that.

‘‘I think it’s imperative for these goalies to watch what’s going on right now and to be able to take parts of [other goalies’] games. You’re not going to take all of Quick’s game. That’s ridiculous. You’re not going to take all of Thomas’ game. But there are parts of that game that, why wouldn’t you steal?’’



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