This season would have been a huge test of the Blackhawks depth at goaltender, even if there were no lockout, and would have been a comfortably paced 82-game season. The fact-of-the-matter is that there was a lockout. Rather than a cozy 82-game schedule, with games spread from early October to mid-April, we have a sardine can like schedule with 48-games packed tightly from January 19th through April 27th.
This scheduling quirk means that there will be many instances where the Blackhawks will be playing 3 games in a 4 night span. This hellacious scheduling will no doubt add lots of wear and tear to every goaltender across the NHL, meaning the role of every backup goalie across the league has greatly expanded. It will be interesting to see how and when every NHL coach uses their respective backup net-minders. Especially Blackhawks head coach, Joel Quenneville, with the same goaltending duo of Corey Crawford and Ray Emery that was consistently inconsistent throughout most of the 2012-2013 season. It’s going to be interesting to see how Ray Emery handles his new role in what will basically be the role of a “super-substitute goaltender.”
Last season, Emery was a very solid backup goaltender, and a pretty decent starter when the Hawks needed him to be. It was an especially good season, while keeping in mind all the questions dealing with Ray going into training camp. Let’s not forget, that Emery was a in training camp on an invitation try-out basis, with no contract. At that time, he was coming off major hip surgery that left many people doubting his ability. Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman, took a chance on Emery based on his excellent performance, shortly before the hip surgery, at the tail-end of the 2010-2011 that helped propel the Anaheim Ducks into the post-season. Bowman was also willing to take the low-risk gamble on Ray, due to the Blackhawks’ desperate need for a backup goaltender at the time.
The gamble definitely paid off.
Emery’s solid season in 2011-2012 had it’s ups and downs, but luckily for the Hawks, Emery’s ups coincided with starting net-minder Corey Crawford’s downs. Thus clearing a (relatively) smooth path to the playoffs for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Now, with a guaranteed contract and position on the NHL roster, Ray Emery looks to step-up and keep pucks out of his net, as the Blackhawks look to secure their 5th consecutive playoff berth. Like I said earlier, with this condensed schedule, Emery will serve a much more important role to the Blackhawks this season.
I look for Ray Emery to have a much improved season this year. He is further removed from his hip surgery, as well as all of the uncertanties he had to deal with at the beginning of training camp last year. If Crawford falters, look for Coach Quenneville to pull the trigger on replacing him with Emery much sooner than he would in a normal 82-game campaign.
Statistically speaking, I expect Ray Emery to improve upon last season’s 2.81 GAA and his .900 SV%, but don’t expect any Vezina talk, or anything like that. Look for his numbers to be closer to his career numbers, possibly even a little better. I’d say a GAA in the 2.50s is very reasonable, and a SV% closer to his career average of .907.
Let’s not forget, Ray Emery could wind up the starting goaltender for the Chicago Blackhawks by the time this crazy schedule is all played out.
What’s your prediction for Ray Emery this season?
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