Goaltending will lead the ‘Hawks to success

By Sam Bauman

Goaltending was supposed to be the greatest weakness for the Chicago Blackhawks heading into this season, but it has quickly turning into the team’s biggest strength.

Corey Crawford and Ray Emery have been brilliant this season, combining for a 19-0-3 record with 1.71 goals against average (GAA) and a .935 save percentage.

This success was certainly not anticipated. After Crawford’s sophomore slump last season, many were expecting the Hawks to trade for another goalie. But Crawford has shown the promise that the Hawks coaches have always seen. Touted as the goalie of the future, Crawford has finally started to churn out the numbers to make him the goalie of the present.

His 1.41 GAA is tops in the league, and his .945 save percentage is second in the league. His play has been consistent, but more than that, it’s been consistently brilliant. Gone are the soft and easy goals that cost the Hawks games last season. Crawford has stood on his head at points this season, which was no more evident than in Sunday’s game against the Red Wings.

Through the first period and a half he only faced five shots. From that point on he faced 27 more shots, only letting one in and robbing Red Wing players of at least two or three more goals. Crawford’s play was so stellar that Johan Franzén actually looked flabbergasted after Crawford robbed what should have been a game-winning goal in overtime. Crawford’s play this season has demonstrated his evolution from the goalie who could cost games into the goalie who can take over games, and has established himself as a No. 1 goaltender.

While Crawford has turned into the No. 1 goalie, Emery has been playing like a starting goaltender himself. From his play this season it’s almost impossible to look at him as a backup and even more impossible to remember that his career almost ended from a hip injury three years ago. Emery’s record is perfect at 9-0-0 and his 2.02 GAA and .926 save percentage are impressive No. 1 goaltender numbers.

Emery’s play is pivotal to the success in this condensed season. With the high number of back-to-back games in a shortened season, the play of the backup goaltenders in the NHL is more important than ever, and that’s the reason Emery is arguably one of the most important players during this run. In the games where Crawford has been injured, or just sat because of playing the night before, the Hawks haven’t lost a beat. Without Emery’s play, the Hawks wouldn’t be on this record-setting 22-game point streak.

Right now the Hawks are in the best position that they could possibly be in. Almost halfway through this condensed season they’ve yet to lose in regulation, and are almost a lock to be in the playoffs barring a monumental collapse.

The fact that this team has two goaltenders playing like No. 1s means that this team can have continued success, and hopefully can lead them back to the Stanley Cup.