Things changed in an instant for the Chicago Blackhawks during their matchup against the Florida Panthers. During the first period, Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford made what was for all intents and purposes a routine save, but went down after attempting to put weight on his left.
Crawford has been a workhorse-type goaltender for the Blackhawks, who recently had solidified themselves atop the Central Division after a six-game road winning trip. Crawford’s performance this year also put him in the discussion for the Canadian National team, but depending on the severity of his injury, that may also be out of the question.
With that being said, and the Blackhawks entire season in peril, it is likely the Blackhawks will need to promote someone from the AHL, rather than make a trade. With the Blackhawks at a healthy 23-man roster including current goalie Antti Raanta and backup Nikolai Khabibulin healthy, the Blackhawks would have $2.1 million in cap, assuming Crawford has to head to the Long Term Injured Reserve (LTIR).
However, it may be weeks before Khabibulin comes back to full health, and the Blackhawks ‘roster has the chemistry to survive through Crawford’s injury, if he is able to return within a reasonable amount of time. That would make the next man up current Rockford IceHogs starter Kent Simpson, a 21-year-old second-round pick from the Blackhawks 2010 draft.
According to hockeysfuture.com, Simpson uses his 6-foot-2 frame well, and has a prospect score of seven, putting him in the future NHL starter discussion. That being said, Simpson is brutally inexperienced and has not put up the sort of numbers that would impress anyone.
It is Simpson’s first full year in the AHL, although he did win the backup job out of camp to start the season. To date, Simpson has a 7-8-1 record in the AHL, and is allowing 3.38 goals per game to go along with a save percentage of .900.
Compounding things is that Simpson has not reacted well in the pressure situations he has faced in the minor leagues. Simpson has yet to win a game in his playoff career in the ECHL, going 0-7 and averaging a .884 save percentage.
This makes an already poor situation even worse. The Blackhawks’ schedule features four games this week, with both being back-to-back series. Simply put, somebody, whether it be Raanta, Simpson or the Blackhawks front office, will need to make something happen while Corey Crawford gets healthy.
Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @Mike486.