Nothing excited Chicago Blackhawks fans more than to see their golden boy goalkeeper, Corey Crawford, get back on the ice to lead his defending champs. However, after a series of close losses, one could only classify Crawford’s return as a bit of a letdown.
Crawford’s lower body injury versus the Panthers on December 8th put coach Joel Quenneville in a bit of a pickle. With backup goalie, Nikolai Khabibulin , also out with an injury, he was forced to put 24-year-old Finnish phenom, Antti Raanta, between the posts. After racking up 7 wins and a save percentage of .911%, Raanta seemed to be adjusting to the new position quite smoothly, but he knew there would be a change once Crawford was 100% healthy.
On January 2nd , Crawford faced the Islanders and a skeptical Chicago crowd. Since that game he has gone 0-2-3 which has to leave Quenneville with a salty taste in his mouth. At this point, we’re all wondering what would have happened if they would have kept Raanta in there. Raanta was on a roll, and the past few years tell us that the Blackhawks are the type of organization that stick with the goaltender that is on a roll. Yet, we can’t forget the 2012-2013 Stanley cup season where Crawford was chosen as the playoffs starter, even though Ray Emery had just came off of a 12-game winning streak. Does coach Quenneville have a method to his madness?
Despite only having 1 regulation win since his return, Crawford has only allowed 2.47 goals per game with a .910 save percentage. The only problem with these statistics is that it causes us to then blame the offense for the consistent losses, but that’s a story of its own.
The next few games for the Blackhawks are going to be battles, seeing that they are facing a tough road schedule that includes the Flames, Canucks, Sharks and Kings all within the next 6 days. Antti Raanta is a young, talented goal tender, but the Blackhawks are going to need the experienced Corey Crawford in the net in order to conquer the grueling schedule they have approaching.