The Chicago Blackhawks clinched a playoff spot for the third year in a row this past weekend.
I am very excited to once again be able to watch my favorite team compete for the Stanley Cup, but after the initial excitement concluded, worry began to set in.
Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (Photo by Hockeybroad Own work via Wikimedia Commons)
While I am certainly more optimistic about the ‘Hawks’ chances compared to last season, I couldn’t stop thinking about the potential problem at the goaltending position that could haunt the ‘Hawks this postseason.
For a good part of the regular season there was a power struggle between the ‘Hawks’ two goaltenders, Corey Crawford and Ray Emery, for the starting position. We heard Coach Joel Quenneville talk a lot about “playing the hot hand.” While “playing the hot hand” might help a team deal with a short-term goaltending problem during the regular season, it definitely does more harm than good during the postseason.
Recently, Crawford has gotten the call for starting goaltender, as he should. But let’s say he performs just average these last two games or has a few bad playoff games; is there going to be some doubt by the ‘Hawks’ coaching staff on who is going to get the starting job come playoff time? I’d like to think there won’t be and that Crawford will get the starting job drama free, and keep it, but with Coach Q’s knack for switching up the lines and personal, I can’t be too sure.
For however long the ‘Hawks make it in the playoffs, or no matter how bad one goaltender plays, the ‘Hawks need to live or die with one goaltender. If you’re going to start Emery, keep him there till the end, and the same with Crawford. Now, of course, if one goaltender lets in the first three shots he’s faced, then I could see putting in the backup, but I couldn’t think of a worse general plan of action to take than one that will create uncertainty about which goaltender is going to start in net in the next game.
A huge part of being successful come playoff time is maintaining stability. There’s very little room for big changes or huge gaffes, and if a team suffers from either one of those, they only have a game or two at max to fix it or face being eliminated.
No matter how painful it might feel to start a goaltender who’s just had a terrible game, it’s key that the Blackhawks remain vigilant with one goaltender.