Where's the respect for Chicago Blackhawks' Crawford?

Corey Crawford is not one of the best 10 goalies in the NHL.

Believe it or not, that's exactly what NHL Network said by not including the Chicago Blackhawks' netminder on their top-10 list in a show that aired on Aug. 6.

We all expected to see the obvious names: Carey Price, Braden Holtby, Sergei Bobrovsky, Jonathan Quick, Henrik Lundqvist, Pekka Rinne and Matt Murray.

But Edmonton's Cam Talbot? San Jose's Martin Jones?

Over Corey Crawford?

Sheer lunacy, no?

"That list drew a lot of consternation. And I can understand why," said Kevin Weekes, an NHL Network analyst who said the rankings were compiled by statisticians.

It's odd that Crawford has somehow become the Rodney Dangerfield of goalies on the national stage.

All he has done is win two Stanley Cups.

And pile up the fourth-most victories, sixth-best save percentage and 10th-best goals-against average in from 2012-17. And continue to amaze teammates and coaches alike with highlight-reel stop after highlight-reel stop.

Anybody paying attention to what's going on in Chicago?

Weekes certainly is. As a former goalie - one who played in 348 regular-season games and helped lead Carolina to the 2002 Stanley Cup Final - Weekes knows his stuff and believes Crawford is a slam-dunk top-5 goalie.

"As far as why other people don't? I don't know," Weekes said. "One thing I noticed as a player - and I see it as analyst - a lot of times people only gravitate toward certain people based on their bias, their perception, what's ideal for them and a combination of other human factors.

"For me, I learned at a really young age there's a difference between performance and perception. … With Crow, some people have their own agenda. Some people aren't doing the homework, or he's not top of mind for them.

"One thing I know, man - and more importantly guys in the league know - Crow's legit and he's a top-fiver for sure."

Joe Cool

Although he had two rough outings before the Christmas break, Crawford (.929 save pct., 2.27 GAA) is having one of the best seasons of his career and should be on many voters' short list to win the Vezina Trophy as the league's best goaltender.

The fact that it's all happening so quietly is pretty much in lock step with Crawford's low-key, under-the-radar personality.

"He brings that relaxed sensation into a dressing room," defenseman Cody Franson said. "(In) situations where things are tight and guys might start gripping their stick a little bit, you look over at Crow and he's in his own little zone. You never see him getting too worked up. That's a testament to him. That's not easy to do in his position."

Also not easy? Becoming a father for the first time. And just a week before training camp, no less.

Having your first newborn at home can be difficult, especially for a professional athlete who must deal with crazy work hours. Was Crawford in for many a sleepless night? Would that carry over to the rink? Perhaps a rough season was on the horizon?

In fact, it has been exactly the opposite.

Cooper Crawford is almost four months old and a complete joy to be around.

"Being at home and spending time with him is fun," Crawford said. "I actually get rest. My girlfriend is up a lot. Thank God. She does so much. But we trade off. …

"Like I don't know how to describe it - just watching him grow up. Already he's changed so much. Seeing him smile and he's kind of laughing now."

Better with age

Including playoffs, Corey Crawford has faced more than 14,000 shots in his NHL career. But it's the ones away from game action that may be the biggest reason he has improved so much over the years.

After all, practice makes perfect. And over the course of hundreds of Joel Quenneville practices, Crawford has seen the best of the best flying at him in all kinds of situations.

Patrick Kane's wicked moves. Jonathan Toews' savvy and smarts. Artemi Panarin's lethal one-timer. Marian Hossa's howitzer of a slap shot. Brent Seabrook's bullets from the point. Patrick Sharp's perfect placement, and even Andrew Shaw's grit and determination.

"Those guys always work hard in practice, and they're always taking their best shots," Crawford said. "They're not just going through the motions. That makes you better.

"It makes you bear down and makes for good competition."

While Quenneville's practices are normally short and sweet, there are plenty of opportunities for the goalies to get lit up. In 45 minutes or less, Crawford and others see a constant barrage of 2-on-1s, 3-on-2s, breakaways, power plays, 5-on-5s … the works.

"You don't want to get embarrassed. I want to stone my teammates in practice," Weekes said. "That's how you get better.

"And for a guy like Crow, if he's not sharp, especially when they were fully loaded, there were a lot of really skilled guys who could have exposed him.

"Who wants to get exposed? It's no fun digging pucks out of your net, even in practice. Your teammates are going to talk the most smack of anybody.

"That has definitely been something that's helped him improve. For sure."

Since Crawford's rookie season in 2010-11, he has improved in every way imaginable. He sees things before they happen. He has excellent rebound control. He talks to his D-men when they're retrieving pucks. He rarely lets in a soft goal.

And he plays the puck better than most. On this last point, Hawks fans saw last postseason that Pekka Rinne might be the best in the league at retreating behind his net and getting the puck up to his teammates.

Crawford was impressed as well, but he's also careful not to overdo it.

"He was out there every time. Puck was in the glass and he was out there trying to stop it," Crawford said of Rinne. "It didn't cost him in the playoffs, but I think it's pretty risky. You have to have a good read - and he's good at it.

"I try and go, too. But you don't want to be cheating either and have a guy fake it and shoot it in the open net."

In Crow they trust

Beyond a doubt, Crawford has been the Blackhawks' MVP this season. And maybe the season before. And - crazy as it sounds in the wake of Patrick Kane's brilliant 2015-16 campaign - Crawford may have even been the Hawks' MVP that season as well. After all, he posted a 35-18-5 record and led the league with 7 shutouts. Where would the Hawks have finished without him?

We'll never know, of course, but Crawford's teammates understand that without him, games could turn ugly in a hurry.

"He's been unbelievable. He's been unbelievable for the past number of years," Brent Seabrook said. "Crow's been our rock. …

"When you're talking about the top goalies in the league, Crow's got to be right up there with them."

And what about the top goalies in history? Does Crawford have any chance to join the likes of Glenn Hall, Tony Esposito, Ken Dryden, Grant Fuhr, Patrick Roy, Ed Belfour and Dominik Hasek in the Hockey Hall of Fame?

Tough to say.

Crawford will turn 33 on Sunday, and he began his NHL career at 26, so the odds of him joining those legendary goaltenders seem remote.

Still, Weekes said it's possible, especially if he wins another Cup and stays healthy for another 5-7 years.

"Just based on his trajectory, he has a good shot. He's on the path," said Weekes, who played with Roberto Luongo and Henrik Lundqvist. "Both of those guys already have their spots in the Hall.

"Crow certainly has the skill set. No question. It's just a matter of durability and time.

"If he ends up with 400, 450 wins, how is he not a Hall of Famer? He's definitely in the conversation."

Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford poses on the ice with his girlfriend, Kristy, and their 4-month old son Cooper. Photo courtesy of the Chicago Blackhawks

By the numbers

Top goaltenders by category from 2012-17 (numbers do not include this season):

<b>Wins</b>1. Braden Holtby 177

2. Tuukka Rask 157

3. Henrik Lundqvist 153

4. Corey Crawford 150

5. Marc-Andre Fleury 149

6. Carey Price 146

<b>Save percentage</b>1. Carey Price .925

2. Sergei Bobrovsky .923

3. Cam Talbot .922

4. John Gibson .922

5. Tuukka Rask .921

6. Corey Crawford .921

<b>Goals against average</b>1. John Gibson 2.22

2. Carey Price 2.23

3. Jonathan Quick 2.23

4. Tuukka Rask 2.25

5. Brian Elliott 2.25

6. Martin Jones 2.27

7. Cory Schneider 2.29

8. Ben Bishop 2.29

9. Corey Crawford 2.31

In the books

<b>Most wins by Blackhawks goaltenders</b>1. Tony Esposito 418

2. Glenn Hall 275

3. Corey Crawford 230

4. Ed. Belfour 201

5. Jocelyn Thibault 139

<b>Most wins in NHL history</b>1. Martin Brodeur 691

2. Patrick Roy 551

3. Ed Belfour 484

4. Roberto Luongo 459*

5. Curtis Joseph 454

6. Terry Sawchuk 447

7. Jacques Plante 434

8. Tony Esposito 423

9. Glenn Hall 407

10. Henrik Lundqvist 406*

* active

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