Along with the announcement that Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane and Viktor Stalberg won’t lace up for Sunday night’s match against the Los Angeles Kings, Coach Quenneville stated that he will turn to Corey Crawford once again. It will be his third consecutive start, and his tenth start in the last 13 games for the Blackhawks. After Marty Turco was pulled 20 minutes and four goal into Monday’s game in Colorado, any residual goaltending controversy ended.
Going into the season there was always the chance Crawford would un-seat Turco, but I for one never gave thought it would ever happen. In my experience covering the Blackhawks and their prospects for three seasons, Crawford didn’t have the skill-set to be a starter at this level. He didn’t move well within the crease, and his rebound control left a lot to be desired. I had my apprehensions whether he’d be an adequate backup.
What we saw Friday night from the 25-year-old rookie in the 4-1 victory over the Red Wings was one of this better performances in his short career. He was quick, moved well from side-to-side, he didn’t give up any juicy rebounds and stopped 29 of the 30 shots faced. Detroit’s only tally happened after the puck took a generous bounce off the backboards, and Crawford couldn’t recover in time.
The starting gig is his to be lost.
Come season end, the Blackhawks’ brass will be faced with a similar problem last summer with Antti Niemi. Granted they won’t be faced with the payroll problems, as the salary cap ceiling is expected to rise again on top of the $4M is performance bonus penalties will be alleviated, but they will have a goaltender in their mid-20s with an expiring contract (RFA).
Don’t expect the same outcome, however. The Blackhawks have nothing in the pipeline that is anywhere close to being NHL-ready and I doubt Bowman will turn to the free agent pool keeping the goaltending carousel spinning. Crawford is the Blackhawks’ goaltender for the immediate future.