At the beginning of the shortened season, nobody felt comfortable with Chicago’s goalie situation. I had a feeling it would be a battle between Emery and Crow all season long, and I wasn’t too far off. But what I didn’t expect was for the duo to end up as the top goalie tandem in the league. Both goalies were rock solid, and it was ultimately settled based on Emery’s late season injury. There was no question that Crow earned the starting job by the time the cup was raised. Even with that weak glove hand he hoisted Lord Stanley perfectly fine. With the goalie controversy solved and the next season on the horizon, we look at our new old backup goalie.
Nikolai Khabibulin: Some of you might remember him from his four seasons with the Blackhawks back before 2010. His best year came in the 08-09 season where he had a .919 SV% and 2.33 GAA. Not spectacular numbers, but you could do worse. Emery had a .922 SV% last season with the Hawks, so Khabibulin wasn’t terrible, especially with a less defensively responsible team in front of him. Last season, Khabibulin played 12 games for the Oilers and had a .923 SV% and a 2.54 GAA. But the fact remains, I don’t like the fact that we paid 2 Million for a 40 year old back up, especially after seeing Anton Khubodin go to the Hurricanes for 800k. Khubodin was the Bruins back up, a team whose own net minders were in contention for the Jennings Trophy with the Hawks. I know that the Hawks signed Khabi to be a backup and not someone that will contend with Crow, but I feel that Khubodin would have been a much better sub if Crow were to be unavailable for an extended period. Either way, the deal is done, and I’m sure Bowman has his reasons for doing what he did. Khabi is a great fit for a backup goalie, and I have faith that he will fill the spot just fine.
Backup to the backup: Antti Raanta: Bowman likes to develop players, which is a great from a team management perspective, but the fans don’t always agree. Raanta has the raw skill to be a number one goalie for the team, but he played in Europe on wider ice surfaces. That doesn’t exactly sound like a big deal, but some goalies have a lot of trouble adjusting to the new playing area. We saw it with Salak; he never seemed to get back to his MVP form once he came to Rockford. In the worst case scenario of Crow being injured long-term and Khabi failing to perform without rest, at least we have Raanta to help fill in. (At least for nine games, the maximum he could play without having to burn the first year of his contract). That is not a sustainable solution, but hopefully it wouldn’t need to be. Antti Raanta had a .943 SV% and 1.85 GAA for his team last year. He continued to shine in the World Championship with a .928 SV% and a 2.09 GAA. He will be capable to fill in, and he has the potential to be a future franchise goalie for the Hawks. Click HERE for highlights of Raanta.
The loss of Emery was bittersweet. He was a fan favorite and a very capable goalie, but his goal was to be a starter. He now has that chance, and the Hawks went in the “safe” direction of getting a dedicated backup. No more fan outcry to have Emery start over Crow, and no extra stress on Crawford. The Khabibulin signing would have been rock solid if it wasn’t for the price tag. The Hawks have a short off season, and they won’t have a lot of time to rest before the puck drops again. Let’s hope the Hawks come out as strong as last year and their goalies as solid as well.