A combination of factors may have resulted in the blowout against the Hawks, but I think one point needs to be made right here and right now: Corey Crawford is a great net minder, but he is not perfect.
I say this, because prior to Saturday nights matchup in Nashville, Crawford had played nine straight games. Then, as if that were not enough, Nikolai Khabibulin was pulled out of the net due to an undisclosed injury in the first period, which sent Crawford into the net.
A great deal of attention has been placed on Khabibulin lately. He is a very weak member on the Hawks roster. Crawford, on the other hand, has done the opposite. I feel that there is a lot of weight put on the heavily-padded shoulders of a goalie. They spend more time out on the ice than any of the other player and end up shouldering a lot of the blame when a team experiences a heavy-handed loss.
This should not be the case. The goalie is an essential part of the team, but there are five other guys out on the ice at any given time that have to help him out. A goaltender is not the only defensive player on a team.
That being said, it is important that the Blackhawks focus on establishing a consistent string of netminders. With Antti Raanta being called up from the AHL, they are on the right track. Khabibulin gave it his best effort, but it is time to consider other avenues. He may still have talent, but it is not enough to match up with the talent on the rest of the Hawks’ roster or the talent that will be firing on him throughout the rest of the NHL.
Saturday’s game is simple evidence that no team is perfect. That much is obvious, but it should show the Blackhawks organization that developing a strong defense, starting with goaltending consistency, is essential.
Crawford needs to be given a break every now and again. That break will come, but it will be slow to start. Crawford did much better in the net on Sunday night. However, getting a new goalie acclimated to NHL play could have a few negative side effects, so it will be interesting to see what the next few weeks hold for the Blackhawks.