Corey Crawford will return to the net tonight for the Blackhawks and may be staying there for a while. Marty Turco was given what was probably his last chance at regaining the starting job and stopped only 57 of the 65 shots he faced over the two games coming out of the All-Star break. For Hawks fans this should feel familiar, just last season, Joel Quenneville, gave Cristobal Huet a pair of starts in early February and then turned the net over to Antti Niemi for the rest of the season.
Turco, is having his worst season as a pro, he has an .896 SV% and a 3.10 GAA. Crawford on the other hand is having a phenomenal season. Despite a slump just before the All-Star break, Crawford is stopping 91.9% of the shots he faces, for a 2.19 GAA. Besides the better numbers for Crawford, for one reason or another the Blackhawks seem to play better when Crawford is in net. The offensive support is about the same; Crawford gets 3.21 goals per 60 minutes compared to 3.18 for Turco. The difference comes in the Hawk’s defensive zone where Crawford sees 27.10 shots/60min compared to Turco who faces 29.78 s/60. The 2.68 shot difference per game shows that for whatever reason, when Turco is in the net the Hawks are not nearly as responsible in their own zone.
Turco will still have a role however, as it appeared that Crawford started to burn out from the heavy workload he had taken on. Last season in Rockford of the AHL, Crawford played in only 45 games. The year before that he played in 47. So far this season, Crawford has played in 28 games, and he is not going to play all of the final 30 which include 8 sets of back-to-backs. For Quenneville and the Hawks the way in which Turco is used the rest of the way may be the key to the play-off run.
The Blackhawks start another seemingly make or break stretch with 4 road games this week starting tonight in Calgary. The blob that is the Western Conference’s 4th through 14th seeds really means that as long as the Hawks can avoid a losing streak they (or any other Western team) will not fall out of the race. Looking at the standings, the 4th through 8th seeds have all played 53 or 54 games, while the 9th though 14th seeds have all played 52 or fewer. Calgary is the exception, sitting in 10th with 59 points in 54 games, which means tonight means more for them than it does the Hawks. Here is a look at the standings now, and where teams could be in a week:
|1||VAN||53||77||OTT, ANA, CAL||77-83|
|4||NSH||53||63||EDM, DET, COL||63-69|
|5||SJ||53||62||WAS, CLB, NJ||62-68|
|7||PHX||54||61||CAL, DAL, CHI||61-67|
|9||MIN||52||59||COL, STL, STL||59-65|
|10||CGY||54||59||CHI, OTT, ANA, VAN||59-67|
|11||CHI||52||58||CAL, EDM, DAL, PHX||58-66|
|12||COL||52||56||PHX, MIN, CLB, NSH||56-64|
|13||CBJ||52||55||PIT, SJ, COL||55-61|
|14||STL||51||54||FLA, MIN, MIN||54-60|
|15||EDM||52||38||NSH, CHI, OTT||38-42|
Clearly, the time for panic and must wins has not arrived; even a split would mean 62 points which with should things break the right way could pull the Hawks as high as the 5th seed, or as low as the 12th. The schedule this week is not daunting. If the Hawks play like they did in Vancouver 6 points should be had.