Patrick Kane is leading the Blackhawks in scoring, Marian Hossa is leading the team in goals and Duncan Keith has been every bit the minute-munching blueliner he has throughout his career, but Corey Crawford has almost undoubtedly been Chicago’s MVP through the first 25 games of the season.
And that will make his absence from the lineup hurt that much more.
Just hours ahead of the Blackhawks’ meeting with the Philadelphia Flyers Saturday afternoon, Chicago coach Joel Quenneville announced that Crawford, 31, had fallen ill and wouldn’t be able to make the start, passing the reins over to Scott Darling and forcing the Blackhawks to ink local goaltender Eric Semborski to an amateur tryout in order to suit up as an emergency netminder. Then shortly before the game started, the Blackhawks announced that this won’t simply be a one-game leave for Crawford.
Instead, Crawford could be out a handful of games — if not longer — due to acute appendicitis, and he will be undergoing surgery in Philadelphia Saturday.
“(Crawford) is undergoing an appendectomy today at a Philadelphia hospital,” Blackhawks doctor Michael Terry said in a release. “We are anticipating a full recovery and return to play. We will provide details regarding the timeline of his return after we have more information about the surgery.”
While it’s excellent news that he’s expected to be able to make a full recovery, being without Crawford for any substantial amount of time could be incredibly costly for the Blackhawks. He has been spectacular once again this year.
Of the 32 goaltenders to play at least 500 minutes at 5-on-5 this year, Crawford ranks third in save percentage with a stellar .956 mark. The only netminders who have been better are Montreal Canadiens all-world netminder Carey Price and Minnesota Wild keeper Devan Dubynk, but both are only ahead of Crawford by a narrow margin.
It’s not as if the Blackhawks are exactly the dominant possession team they once were, either, so Crawford has been tested often. With Chicago ranking 11th in the league in 5-on-5 Corsi For percentage at 50.7 percent, Crawford has seen 30.4 shots per 60 minutes of action at five a side. That ranks 10th among the 32 500-minute netminders.
Darling is no doubt a passable option as a spot starter in place of Crawford, but his 4-0-1 record, 2.76 goals-against average and .909 SP are a far cry from the Blackhawks starter’s numbers. Chicago will also be set to rely on either Mac Carruth or Lars Johansson as their backup in Crawford’s absence.
UPDATE: The Chicago Sun-Times' Mark Lazerus reported Saturday that Crawford is expected to miss 2-3 weeks.
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