It is getting to that point in the season now where people are starting to wonder who will be starting in goal for the Blackhawks come playoff time. Unlike most teams, the Blackhawks have two goalies who could start in net during the playoffs: Corey Crawford and Ray Emery. Both have comparable statistics this season, but only one can be named the starter.
Corey Crawford is 15-4-4 on the season, while Emery is 13-1-0. Emery ranks fourth in the NHL in lowest goals against average, and Crawford is fifth. In terms of save percentage, Ray Emery is tenth in the league while Crawford is eleventh. Other than their records, these two goalies are very similar in terms of their statistics.
Lately, Crawford has been in a bit of a rut. He has allowed 14 goals in his last 5 games played and has gone 2-2-1 over that stretch. While he started off the season playing with a ton of confidence (which showed in his play), he seems to have lost some of that confidence over the last few weeks or so. A good example of that came against the Predators last Monday night when Crawford let in two goals in a row that should have never ended up in the back of the net. It reminded me a lot of the bad goals he allowed in overtime of last year’s playoffs against the Coyotes.
I think that my main point here is that Crawford, while he can have some very good stretches of play, is too weak mentally. If he is named the starting goaltender for the playoffs, all it might take is one bad goal against or one loss to really mess with his confidence. Ray Emery on the other hand, is a little different.
When you look at Emery’s stats this year, there is no reason why he shouldn’t be the number one goalie for the playoffs. I mean heck, he’s only lost one game this year! His goals against average is a mere 1.95, and his save percentage is .923. Those are very respectable numbers. Even though Corey Crawford does have playoff experience, and even though he did have a good series against Vancouver two years ago, Ray Emery not only has more experience, but he led the Senators to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2007. Come playoff time, experience is huge.
Even though Emery did not win the Stanley Cup in 2007, he still got there as the starting goalie in Ottawa. That experience cannot be overrated. Having played on the highest stage in the NHL, Emery knows what it takes and what it is like to get to the Cup Finals.
After saying all of that about each goalie, if I were Joel Quenneville and the playoffs started tomorrow, Ray Emery would be my starting goaltender. There is still time remaining in the regular season for Crawford to prove that he deserves another chance at leading the Hawks through the postseason, but he is really going to have to step up his game physically and mentally to do so in my eyes.
I am very interested to see how this all plays out over the last few weeks of the season. Emery shut out the Predators yesterday and those two teams square off again in 2 hours. No announcement yet as to who will start in goal tonight for the Hawks, but if it is Emery, that might be a sign on things to come.