Goalie Tandem Equals Success for Blackhawks in Last Decade

With the acquisition of Robin Lehner, the Chicago Blackhawks now have a goalie tandem as good as there is in the league.

Our own Tony Gianares projected what fans can expect from Robin Lehner this season, and also, discussed briefly a few successful goalie tandems the Blackhawks have had in recent years in his article, What to Expect From the Goaltending Position.

When looking back on the three Stanley Cups won by the Chicago Blackhawks this decade, you notice each team had a goalie tandem, or trio, that stabilized their back end and made winning the ultimate prize possible. Here is a breakdown of just how good and what made these tandems, or trio, so successful.

2009-10: Cristobal Huet and Antti Niemi

Niemi and Huet

CHICAGO – MAY 29: Goaltender Antti Niemi #31 of the Chicago Blackhawks is congratulated by Cristobal Huet #39 after their 6-5 win over the Philadelphia Flyers in Game One of the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Finals at the United Center on May 29, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

In the 2009-10 season, the Blackhawks gave up only 203 goals, which was the fifth-best total by any team. Backstopping the Blackhawks was 34-year-old Cristobal Huet and 26-year-old Antti Niemi.

Huet started in 46 games for the Blackhawks with a record of 26-14-4. Being the starter, Huet had a .895 Sv% and a 2.50 GAA. Not that great of a Sv%, but the overall team defense made up for it.

Niemi started the other 35 games posting a record of 26-7-4, with a .912 Sv% and a very respectable 2.25 GAA. Entering the 2010 Playoffs, Niemi was named the starter.

En route to hoisting the Cup, Niemi started all 22 games and was pulled just once. In those 22 games, he posted a .910 SV% and a 2.63 GAA with 2 shutouts.

With the little amount of workload Niemi had to shoulder in the regular season, it was obvious that he was well-rested for a deep playoff run. This was a huge factor in the Blackhawks winning Lord Stanley in 2010.

2012-13: Corey Crawford and Ray Emery

In the lockout-shortened 2013 season, Corey Crawford was poised to solidify his position as the starting goalie. This would have been the case, if not for the late Ray Emery having a just as impressive season. The tandem won the William M. Jennings Trophy, given to the goalie(s) of the team who ends the season with the least amount of goals against.

Crawford and Emery

EDMONTON, CANADA – NOVEMBER 19: Ray Emery #30 is pulled and replaced by Corey Crawford #50 of the Chicago Blackhawks during a game against the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place on November 19, 2011 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Crawford started 28 games for the Blackhawks, finishing the regular season with a record of 19-5-5. Finishing with a top ten best .926 SV% and sixth-best 1.94 GAA, Crawford made his case to be the next great Blackhawks goaltender.

With that being said, you cannot discredit the remarkable season Ray Emery had. Starting in 19 games for the Blackhawks, Emery had an outstanding record of 17-1-0. He posted an identical GAA as Crawford, with a 1.94 GAA, and he also contributed with a .922 Sv%.

Going into the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Crawford was well-rested and primed for a deep run. Starting all 23 games for the Blackhawks en route to winning their second Cup in three years, Crawford had a remarkable .932 SV% and an other-worldly 1.84 GAA.

2014-2015: Corey Crawford, Scott Darling, and Antti Raanta

In the 2014-15 season, Blackhawks fans were introduced to the three-headed goalie monster of Corey Crawford, Scott Darling, and Antti Raanta. Crawford, now a Stanley Cup champion, accompanied by well-traveled Darling and second-year goaltender, Raanta, the Blackhawks had the second-fewest goals against with 186, only two goals behind the Montreal Canadiens.

Crawford and Darling

CHICAGO, IL – APRIL 19: Corey Crawford #50 of the Chicago Blackhawks congratulates Scott Darling #33 after a win over the Nashville Predators in Game Three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center on April 19, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Predators 4-2. (Photo by Joanthan Daniel/Getty Images)

Starting the majority of the season for the team, Crawford had 57 starts finishing the regular season with a record of 32-20-5. He put up a respectable 2.27 GAA and a .924 SV%.

To share the load, the Blackhawks had the luxury of having two capable backup goalies. After spending the past nine seasons bouncing around the country playing for various ECHL and AHL teams, Scott Darling found a place to stay in Chicago.

Starting in 13 games for the Blackhawks, Darling had a record of 9-4-0. Along the way, he posted a 1.95 GAA and a .936 Sv%. Even though he wasn’t called on much in the regular season, he was a huge reason why the Blackhawks made it past the first round of the Playoffs.

Rounding out the three-headed goalie monster, Antti Raanta started 12 games for the Blackhawks in 2014-15. With a record of 7-4-1, Raanta had impressive numbers and finished the regular season with a 1.89 GAA and a .936 SV%. Even though he wasn’t used in the playoffs, there’s no denying that Raanta was an important piece to the Blackhawks’ third Stanley Cup in six seasons.

In the first period of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Blackhawks went down 3-0. Darling was in net to start the second period. He stopped all 42 shots he faced, helping the Blackhawks win in overtime. Crawford was back between the pipes to start Game 2, but the Predators dominated the Blackhawks with a score of 6-2.

In Game 3, Darling was named the starter. He made 35 saves on 37 shots while leading the Blackhawks to a 4-2 win. This brings us to one of the most exciting games in the Blackhawks’ six years of success.

Game 4 featured three overtimes and forced Darling to come up with 50 saves on 52 shots. Darling’s heroics, along with a Brent Seabrook game-winner, led the Blackhawks to a victory.

It looked as though Darling had stolen the starting job from Crawford before he had a “back to reality” start in Game 5. He only made 24 saves on 28 shots, leading to a 5-2 Blackhawks loss.

Now up 3-2 in the series, Darling was called on once again to start Game 6. He let in 3 goals on just 12 shots before Crawford came in and stopped a perfect 13 of 13 shots. From there, Crawford had the rest he needed to take the Blackhawks all the way to another Stanley Cup.

2019-20:  Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner

Lehner wins Masterton Trophy

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – JUNE 19: Robin Lehner of the New York Islanders poses for a portrait with the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy during the 2019 NHL Awards at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on June 19, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

Going into the 2019-20 season, the Blackhawks once again have a tandem of goaltenders who can both win games.

Joining Corey Crawford this offseason, Robin Lehner is coming off a season where he was awarded the William M. Jennings Trophy (with Thomas Greiss), the Bill Masterton Trophy for perseverance, and was also a Vezina Trophy finalist while posting a 2.17 GAA and a .930 Sv%.

Lehner is the man for the job. He will split time with Crawford this season, which will keep both goaltenders fresh for the entire season.

Judging by past successes, Blackhawks’ fans are in for a treat this season with these two goalies in net. Go Hawks!