Jan. 19, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) makes a save during the first period of the game against the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
There was one noticeable side effect from the lockout and it came to a pretty ugly head on opening weekend. The goalies no matter how much they worked out, trained, and prepared for the season during the lockout were well behind the offense. You hear this a lot during spring training that the pitchers are ahead of the hitters, but the offense in the NHL is way ahead of the goalies.
It’s not just the average Joe goalie that is struggling in the first weekend of the shortened season. Mike Smith who dominated the Hawks in the playoffs and carried the Coyotes as far as they possibly could go last season has given up 10 goals in his first two games. Corey Schneider the newest Canuck backstop gave up 5 goals in the season opener, while the Blackhawks put 5 goals behind Jonathan Quick opening night which would have been hard to imagine in a 7 game series last June let alone one game. Henrik Lundqvist carried the Rangers all of last season yet he has lost his first two games while giving up 7 goals and getting pulled in one of the losses.
Now comes to our beloved Chicago Blackhawks and the position that worries me the most. Corey Crawford did what was asked in Game 1 in LA by stopping everything he should while not getting overly tested in the 5-2 win. Crawford will be the key to success this season especially when playing the tight defensive teams like the Blues and Predators. When playing these units the Hawks are not going to be lighting the lamp routinely like they have so far this year. Crawford is going to have to stop what he is suppose to while making some big saves to preserve the victory.
The real concern is what is behind Crawford in Ray Emery. Emery got the win Sunday night only because the Hawks built a big lead and were able to hold on for the 6-4 victory. Emery struggled seemingly on every shot but two from my vantage point (in front of the TV) Emery looked uncomfortable and looked liked he hadn’t practiced in weeks. Maybe he was trying to mimic Mike Smith who looked worse than Emery. I know every goalie has his own style but when you are fighting every shot especially with no one in front of you it becomes very concerning. The major concerns for me is that Emery is about to become the next Cristabol Huet. I know it is extremely early in the season but this year is a sprint not a marathon.
The Chicago Bears started the season 7-1 but everyone was ignoring the Bears dreadful offensive line which was their ultimate demise this season, so while Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa seem to be playing at a different level early in the season, the pessimistic Chicago sports fan in me cannot get too excited when the goal tending looks average at best, especially when its goal keeping that wins Stanley Cups!
What do you think? Can Crawford and Emery do enough to lead the Blackhawks deep into the playoffs?
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