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Thursday, 11 April 2013

Corey Crawford and Ray Emery Solid Goalie Tandem

For most teams having one goaltender claim the right to be the starter is good enough. That goalie plays the majority of the games and carries the weight of the team and as long as he's consistent there's no issues. Having two goaltenders perform above expectation usually throws a wrench in things, but for the Chicago Blackhawks they're perfectly fine with that. Both Ray Emery and Corey Crawford have been splitting time between the pipes for the Blackhawks this season and things have been going just fine.

As soon as two goalies on the same team start to play well everyone immediately wants to create a goaltending controversy. The Blackhawks are proving that having two goalies playing like starters is more of a blessing than a curse.

The most important thing for the Blackhawks is the fact that both Ray Emery and Corey Crawford are grinding out wins. Both goaltenders have 15 wins and while Emery boasts a better 15-1-0 record their stats are nearly identical.

What's the big deal with the Blackhawks rotating goalies? They're in first place in the entire NHL, let alone the Western Conference and have already clinched a playoff spot. Them rotating goalies during their remarkable streak at the beginning of the year is likely the reason the streak lasted so long. Each goalie was fresh and opponents were kept guessing on which goalie they'd face.

It's really quite remarkable looking at the Blackhawks goaltending turnaround. Last season there were talks they would go hard after Roberto Luongo. This season they have two fantastic netminders who could easily both be in the running for the Vezina trophy.

For the Blackhawks this is the perfect situation. Corey Crawford is still very much a rookie this being his 3rd full year in the NHL. At the age of 28 with less than three years under his belt he's still got a lot to learn and a few more seasons before he finds his game. Now Crawford has the chance to learn from the veteran Ray Emery who is in his eighth NHL season and has tons of experience.

nyc_111213_melroseonhawksCrawford is still young. The puck handling skills and confidence he possessed early in the season have taken a major hit. Having the veteran Emery around provides a chance for both goalies to not only learn from each other but push each other to be better. Right now either goaltender is capable of taking over the starters job and sometimes that healthy competition is just what a team needs.

Now rotating the hot-hand during the regular season is one thing and it seems to have worked for the Blackhawks, but playoffs are a completely different story. Crawford's goaltending during last years playoffs was a major disappointment and a huge reason why the Hawks were eliminated in round one.

While the Hawks may want Crawford to carry the load in the postseason, why not throw Ray Emery a bone? Right now Emery is playing his best hockey since 2007 when he carried the Ottawa Senators to the Stanley Cup Finals. Emery has only 1 loss on the season and his 1.90 GAA and .924S% are slightly better than Crawford. With how well Emery has played this season and a deep playoff run under his belt, give him a shot to start in the first round of the playoffs.

The good thing about having both goalies playing so well- apart from the fact you win more, is the flexibility it gives a team. If they go with Crawford and he gets hurt the Blackhawks can put in Emery without skipping a beat. If one goalie starts to flounder in the post-season they have that option to put the other goalie in. Either way it's a win-win situation.

While the Blackhawks will need to make a decision on whether they start Corey Crawford or Ray Emery in the post-season, right now they're enjoying their "problem." Having both of your goalies inside the top 5 of all goalies and having your backup ranked 3rd is usually a blessing.

As long as the Blackhawks have two goalies who are winning games, it shouldn't matter who's between the pipes.

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