The Chicago Blackhawks have their starting goaltender in Corey Crawford. After the 2013 season, the Blackhawks lost Ray Emery to the Philadelphia Flyers in free agency. The Blackhawks response? Sign Nikolai “The Bulin Wall” Khabibulin, who previously played for the Hawks from 2005 – 2009. That experiment was less-than-rewarding, only playing in four games with one win. On November 17, 2013 the Blackhawks recalled Finish goaltender Antti Raanta from their affiliate the Rockford IceHogs. That decision, in fact, paid off.
Crawford went down mid-December with a groin injury, missing about three weeks. When Crawford went down he was tied with Marc-Andrew Fleury for the league lead with 17 wins. Raanta was thrown to the wolves, and excelled greater than expected. The Blackhawks went 7-1-2 while Crawford went down and Raanta played a large part in many of those wins. After Crawford returned, the Hawks stuck with Raanta as the back up. Raanta finished the season with 13 wins and really helped the Hawks when Crawford needed a rest. He is signed only through this season but expect the Hawks to resign him to continue to back up Crawford in that crucial role.
Crawford is the solidified starting goaltender of this Blackhawks core, signing him for six more years at thirty-six million dollars. His glove was a weakness this season, but with work this offseason, should improve. Crawford finished the season with 32 wins and a 2.26 goals against average. Even though Crawford may still be one of the more underrated goalies in the NHL, the Hawks are in a good spot with him in the crease.
The Blackhawks’ goalie situation, is anything but a situation. Crawford and Raanta are two goalies that the Blackhawks feel comfortable with, whoever is in net. Crawford should continue to grow as an NHL goaltender, and earn the respect he deserves. Raanta is a reliable goalie if Crawford is in need of a rest, or injured like earlier this season. The Hawks are in good shape and if they can resign Raanta, they will be in good shape for future seasons to come.