So here we are.
As the Blackhawks head into March, their goaltending situation is in a similar state as it has been for the last few months. And it’s not a pretty one.
Corey Crawford was handed a fresh new contract in the offseason and was expected to become the team’s first franchise goaltender in ages. He hasn’t lived up to anywhere near those expectations.
Crawford has struggled throughout the season, only putting together a few really strong performances, which are scattered throughout the months of the 2011-12 campaign. He’s been pulled quite a few times throughout the season, including his last two starts against the Kings and Maple Leafs.
On the other side, you have Ray Emery. He won the backup goaltending job out of training camp and has performed admirably in relief of Crawford. In fact, he’s outplayed him for a good chunk of the season.
In the first three months of the season, Emery went 9-3-2 in 12 starts. Two of those decisions came in relief of Crawford after he was pulled. His best run came in December, when he started seven games and won six of them.
Obviously at this point in the season, neither Crawford nor Emery is a guy that you can look at and seriously feel comfortable heading into a playoff series. Neither looks capable of getting the Hawks anywhere near a deep playoff run.
But if you had to pick one right now, Emery is the more likely option. And his performance against the Maple Leafs on Wednesday solidified the fact that he’s simply better than Crawford right now.
Throughout the season, we’ve seen Crawford struggled both on the ice and in his head. His head is a mess and his confidence is probably as low as it could possibly get. His play on the ice has reflected that, as he’s struggled to make saves that you’d expect from a starting goaltender.
The Blackhawks have 17 games left this season. For the majority of those, Emery should be given a chance to take over the starting job completely.
There’s more fight in Emery. We see it every night. He’s a competitor. Against the Leafs on Wednesday, Emery was as strong as we’ve seen him all season. The Hawks struggled defensively, and Emery kept the Leafs out with a few huge saves, with the only goal he allowed coming with two seconds left in the tilt.
It’s not an ideal situation for the Hawks at all. In a perfect world, Stan Bowman would have acquired goaltending help before the trade deadline, or Crawford wouldn’t be godawful. But Ray Emery gives this team the best chance to win down the stretch. He’s proven he can play on a consistent basis and should be given the opportunity to do so moving forward.