Other than their brief flirtation with Martin Brodeur earlier this summer, the Chicago Blackhawks have made it clear that they trust Corey Crawford and will roll into the season with him as their starting goaltender.
That decision comes despite the presence of some strong options out on the market, with the likes of Roberto Luongo and Jonathan Bernier available out on the trade market, though the asking price was likely too high for the Hawks to seriously consider a move for the two, anyway.
But just because there is actually consistency in the goaltending heading into the new season, which is a rarity for this organization, doesn’t mean that there is a reason to be comfortable with the duo of Crawford and Ray Emery. In fact, it’s still as big of a wild card with the two as it was on a night-to-night basis last season.
I’m in the camp that expects Crawford to rebound in 2012-13. He had a sophomore slump in ’11-’12, which isn’t something that’s uncommon in the National Hockey League. If the team in front of him is better, he should be better, as we saw him improve down the stretch last season.
Emery is a different story entirely. He had a nice stretch with the Hawks last season, and was a serviceable backup, but if this team needs him for an extended period of starts, I trust him about as much as Philadelphia Flyers fans trust Michael Leighton. His health is a constant concern and he moves around the crease very slowly.
If Crawford comes out and flashes some of that 2010-2011 playoff form and pieces together consistent play, then all should be well with this team in net. But if it turns into the revolving door that it was last season and Joel Quenneville has to use a dart board to decide his starting goaltender again each night, there will be issues.
The fact that the latter is even a concern makes this duo a total wild card. The hope is that the two will be much more solid in ’12-’13, but until they show it, we have absolutely no idea what the Blackhawks will get from their goaltending, making the two as big a wild card as it gets.