The Chicago Blackhawks have had an amazing cast of players in their lineup ever since 2008, even after winning the cup and having the team dismantled due to cap restrictions they still had one of the better groups of forwards led by flashy winger Patrick Kane and Captain Serious Jonathan Toews. Their defence core was led by two Canadian Olympians including former Norris winner Duncan Keith and his ever reliable partner Brent Seabrook. The only thing that was holding the team back from true dominating success was their goaltending, that is until this season.
Corey Crawford took the long road to the NHL after being drafted in the 2nd round in 2003. Crawford played 5 seasons in the AHL seeing very limited action with the Blackhawks. After Chicago won the cup in 2010 and Antti Niemi departed for San Jose he finally made the Blackhawks roster for good, and beat out Marty Turco for the starter’s job winning 33 games.
Ray Emery came to Chicago on a tryout attempting to kick-start his career after it almost ended due to having major hip surgery to replace a deteriorating bone in his hip. With the NHL lockout Emery had extra time to get in shape and used it to improve his balance, the results? An undefeated 11-0-0 record with just 19 games left in the season.
Corey Crawford struggled last season and during the off season many were quick to speculate about whether Chicago should add another goaltender, Roberto Luongo’s name was even thrown into the mix. Crawford apparently took this to heart as his play as of late has warranted Blackhawks management to stick with him and Emery.
While many are quick to point to Crawford’s playoff failures as he has never advanced past the first round and last season really struggled against the Coyotes. While Crawford has struggled in the post season in the past he has proven he can rebound from tough games in the 2011 playoffs climbing back from an 0-3 deficit to force 7 games against the Canucks while posting a save percentage of .927, he and Jonathan Toews were the Blackhawks two best players that series.
Many around the league are quick to point to goaltending as a source of concern come spring hockey time in Chicago but the play of both Crawford and Emery has earned either of them the shot to carry the team in the playoffs. Emery is no stranger to playoff competition backstopping the Senators to the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals where they were physically overwhelmed by the Anaheim Ducks.
If the Chicago Blackhawks struggle this post season and are once again out of the playoffs early then I will fully support and understand the decision to pursue a goaltender who can steal games for them. For now due to the strong seasons both net minders are having Blackhawks fans should have full confidence in either goalie between the pipes come playoff time.