Ray Emery’s chance to start equals goaltending migraines for Blackhawks

By Greg Wyshynski

On the one hand, you have Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks saying that he’s played “really good hockey and some not-so-good hockey” over the last several games.

On the other, you have Coach Joel Quenneville saying of Ray Emery: “Basically every time he’s been in the net for us this year he’s been consistent. He’s been solid, predictable and dependable.”

To no one’s surprise, then, Ray Emery is starting on Tuesday night against the Colorado Avalanche, with every opportunity to wrestle the starting job away from Crawford.

This is, of course, what the Quenneville Blackhawks do, according to Adam Jahns of the Sun-Times:

This isn’t anything new for the Hawks. Two years ago, Antti Niemi usurped a less-confident Cristobal Huet in February. A season before that, it was Nikolai Khabibulin over Huet.

But unlike those seasons and even partially last year, there is more onus on the goalie this season because the Hawks haven’t shown a willingness to commit to defense for a considerable stretch and their puck-possession game has struggled. The fact that the Hawks are the only team without a shutout is an indicator of both.

Jahns writes that “the Hawks won’t be pursuing a goalie. It will be either Crawford or veteran Ray Emery.” Translation: This development is not good news for the Chicago Blackhawks.

This is not good news because Crawford’s 3-year deal signed last May portends that he’d be the team’s playoff goaltender. As GM Stan Bowman said: “Corey emerged as our go-to guy, that he earned the right to be our No. 1 goalie.”

This is not good news because he’s given up that right, at least temporarily and in the eyes of his coach.

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He hasn’t given up less than two goals in a game since Dec. 26, and has given up 3-or-more in eight of his last 10 starts. Now, he’ll ride the pine to see if a journeyman in Ray Emery can take his gig.

Can the Chicago Blackhawks win a Stanley Cup with Ray Emery and an inconsistent Crawford as their duo? Sam Fels of NBC Chicago only sees one path that works: Batten down the hatches and play outstanding team defense in front of Emery. From Fels:

If the Hawks are going to have success, and the kind of memorable success, with Emery in net then their defense is going to have get real tight real quick. They’re going to have to limit the amount of movement teams can make with the puck. Passes through the slot to the other side of the net can’t happen. Time with the puck to make a move on Emery can’t happen. Basically, they have to make sure that Emery sees every shot straight on. If he has to slide to cover one-timers and rushes, they’ll have serious problems.

If the Blackhawks aren’t looking outside the organization for a goaltending solution (paging Ryan Miller), then the best-case scenario is this: Emery has his run and eventually fades; Crawford returns, rested and focused, and Niemi’s his way into the postseason where, let’s remember, he was pretty damn good last season (2.21 GAA, .927 SV%).

Worst case scenario: The Chicago Blackhawks are going to have to win despite their goaltending. Ask the 2010 Flyers how that worked out.