Chicago Blackhawks’ Head coach, Joel Quenneville has been one of the most successful head coach in NHL history. While his career has been remarkably successful, he doesn’t quite have a flawless resume(but then again, who does?). Coach Q has always had inconsistent goaltending throughout his NHL coaching career. Talk of Quennevilles ability to handle goaltenders reached fever-pitch last season, a midst Corey Crawford’s sophomore struggles. Hawks nation, and twitter were quick to point out that Q has had goalie controversies in every city he has coached.
I never took much stock into these complaints, because while perhaps Coach Q maybe isn’t the best at handling goaltenders, and even makes me scratch my head sometimes. My point is that most coaches have the same goaltending headaches that Quenneville has consistently had throughout his career. Yes, there are the few exceptions for coaches who have the luxury of having players like Martin Brodeur, Jonathan Quick, Pekka Rinne, or Henrik Lundqvist on their roster. Those net-minders of freaks of nature with their consistency, they are the exception, not the norm.
Then, there is the rest of the bunch. The slightly more human goaltenders in comparison to the super-human goaltenders that I previously mentioned. These goaltenders have the ability to stand on their head and earn shutouts and victories for their teams, just like the super-human elite goaltenders. What’s different about these goaltenders, is that they can also struggle mightily at times, and look absolutely lost, and look so bad, that it appears they are in the wrong line of work. Corey Crawford falls comfortably into this category. At times, Hawks fans want Crawford to walk the plank, and get as far away from the United Center crease as possible, much like 2012. Other times, Hawks fans want Corey starting every game, and are upset when he isn’t starting, much like 2013.
This epidemic of great puck stopping one night, and unable to stop a beach ball the next night is not exclusive to Chicago or Joel Quenneville. It is a plague that has affected every team in the NHL, with the exception to the elite goaltenders that appear to be immune to this plague. Look at the Vancouver Canucks, the Philadelphia Flyers, the Columbus Blue Jackets, the New York Islanders, and many more. These teams have horribly consistent goaltending migraines that make Coach Q look like he’s on vacation.
It should be obvious that goaltending is one of the most finicky, psychological, and nerve wracking positions in all professional sports. It’s pure isolation. Say, a d-man might get burned by an opposing player, and goalie gives up a goal. While the d-man get’s a minus for the goal, and get’s pointed out as being mostly at fault for the goal, the goaltender receives all the side-effects. His Goals Against Average goes up, his save percentage goes down, he may have lost a shutout. It’s much easier for the blame to be laid on the goaltender, because he sticks out like a sore thumb. A skaters mistake, can appear much more embedded, due to the speed of the game, but every goal against has to go through the goaltender, which makes him a very easy target. They face a unique form of pressure, that can’t be compared to anything else in sports.
The Chicago Blackhawks have been blessed this season, due to the fact that both Corey Crawford and Ray Emery have been on top fo their game all season. When Crawford went down with injury, Emery stepped in and helped find his way to a 10-0-0 start to the season. Crawford has been among the league leaders in goaltending statistics all season. Make no mistake this is Crawford’s job to lose. It’s just an insane luxury for the Hawks, that their backup goaltender is also playing at an elite level for the time being.
However, the last couple of games, the Hawks have had sub-par goaltending, and Coach Q made a mildly controversial decision to start Emery Sunday against Edmonton, and he didn’t even make it through the first period. This is the first little hiccup in a what has been as good of a season that Hawks fans could ask for. Please, be calm Hawks fans. These masked men on ice have to deal with unparalleled amounts of pressure. They are going to have their dry-spells of poor play, it just comes with the job. Please, be careful not to give in to knee-jerk reactions of “trade Crawford” or anything like that, unless his struggles get astronomically out of hand, he won’t be going anywhere.
So here’s to the goaltenders! May the their save percentages remain low enough for us all to get a good nights sleep!