Corey Crawford is in the midst of the busiest season of his career and the workload may be taking a toll on his body. The 31-year-old will miss Friday’s game against the Winnipeg Jets with an upper-body injury.
The Blackhawks announced Thursday afternoon they have recalled Michael Leighton from the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs, and that Crawford won’t even travel with the team to Winnipeg. He hasn’t yet been ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Wild, but a few games rest wouldn’t be the worst thing for the veteran netminder.
Without Crawford, though, one has to wonder if the Blackhawks can snap out of their current funk. Chicago has dropped five of their past six games and four straight, over which time they’ve been outscored 16-6, and Crawford has almost inarguably been the team’s MVP over the past two months.
Since Jan. 17, there has been 21 goaltenders who have played 700-plus minutes at 5-on-5 and Crawford ranks third amongst those netminders in save percentage. Only Henrik Lundqvist and Semyon Varlamov have posted better 5-on-5 SPs than Crawford’s .938 SP, and that’s more impressive considering the Blackhawks have allowed the fifth-most high-danger scoring chances against per 60 minutes over that same span. Crawford has been fantastic.
Losing Crawford right now during this slide could cost the Blackhawks some points in the standings, which could realistically cost Chicago positioning in the tough Central Division. If the playoffs were to start today, the Blackhawks would have to take on the St. Louis Blues and that would be a difficult matchup. Getting into first in the Central, however, could give the Blackhawks a date against the Nashville Predators, Colorado Avalanche or Minnesota Wild, likely an easier matchup for the defending champions.
In Crawford’s absence, Scott Darling, who played in Chicago’s 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers Wednesday, will get the call Friday against the Jets. Darling hasn’t been great in his past two outings with an .877 SP and 3.38 goals-against average, and his numbers on the season aren’t inspiring, either. Darling has a 6-6-2 record, 2.60 GAA and .912 SP. At 5-on-5, Darling’s .921 SP ranks 40th of 54 goaltenders to play 800 minutes or more.
(All advanced statistics via War-On-Ice)