Blackhawks: Making a case for Malcolm Subban in net
By Shaun Filippelli
With the Chicago Blackhawks down 2-0 in their First Round series, having already let in eight goals, it may be time to make a necessary change in net.
Corey Crawford joining his Chicago Blackhawks for their improbable post-season push was a welcomed sight for all. He is currently their undisputed number one and there is no debate.
However, it wouldn’t be inaccurate to claim that Crawford hasn’t slipped from his peak performance in recent years. And it’s not to sound overly critical, as he’s dealt with his share of injuries along the way.
First and foremost, on a human level beyond the sport, his successful recoveries were always the focus. However, there is no denying that he’s lost some agility as of late. That will only become a greater challenge to overcome.
Minding Their Net
When the Blackhawks picked up Robin Lehner in the 2019 offseason, it seemed like the organization was making a statement about who would soon take over the crease for Chicago.
But then Lehner was traded at the 2020 deadline. Acquiring Malcolm Subban in that deal, the Blackhawks went from having two number one type goalies to the standard starter and backup duo instead.
So, what did this mean for the club’s approach to managing their back end moving forward?
After ending training camp on a strong note, with a shared shutout against the St. Louis Blues, Crawford entered the Stanley Cup Qualifiers ready to play and with full control of his net.
He did his part to get the Blackhawks beyond Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers. Which was especially evident from the .956 save percentage he earned in their series-deciding Game 4 victory.
First Round Impressions
Once they got into the First Round, however, facing a number one seed Vegas Golden Knights would be a whole new hill to climb for the lowest-ranked Western Conference team remaining. Chicago had their work cut out for them.
This became even more clear after their 4-1 loss to kick off the match-up, where Vegas simply outperformed Chicago across the board. The Golden Knights piled on the shots (34 to 20), landed more hits (35-20), and even out-blocked the Blackhawks (18-12).
Vegas simply played a more complete game. Game 2 was going to be a true test for this Chicago roster, to see if they could bounce back against a much more talented opponent than the one they had just knocked out.
Their second meeting was a far closer fight throughout, with chances shared back and forth all game. Chicago’s stars were starting to shine as they are known to, beyond their dim start to this series.
The Blackhawks had the game tied with a late goal in the second period. Both teams played a tight third, which ultimately led them straight into requiring overtime to conclude this one.
However, Vegas still outmuscled Chicago across the board and racked up better numbers within practically every category. Including the one that matters most. That added pressure caught up to the Blackhawks and they lost 4-3.
Crawford’s Crease in Question
Crawford let in four goals on 39 shots. Certainly a hefty workload and not by any stretch a loss that should be blamed solely on his efforts. But a .897 save percentage just isn’t enough to sustain success in the playoffs.
Now, with a 3-3 record throughout this post-season and down 2-0 in the First Round, there’s nothing that should be stopping the Chicago Blackhawks from shaking up their roster in the same way they’re known to manipulate their lines.
Just as the underlying storyline for this match-up was that Lehner was going to face his former franchise, the same can be said of Subban.
What the Blackhawks have attempted so far this series just hasn’t worked, so there’s no reason not to try something different. They do not have a lot of time left to turn things around.
Subban’s best numbers to date throughout his tenure in the NHL came in a Golden Knights jersey, starting 58 games for the organization and earning a 30-21-7 record.
Much was made of Robin Lehner’s reunion, yet he played barely over half that amount in starting only 31 games for Chicago. Perhaps this narrative needs to be looked at through a different lens.
Vegas is amongst the few teams Subban has yet to suit up against throughout his career. He’s yet to get into any playoff action throughout his five years in the league thus far, as well.
Clearly, Chicago needs to try something different, so why not start there?
Giving Malcolm Subban the chance to help turn things around for the Chicago Blackhawks isn’t punishment for Corey Crawford. It needs to be seen as giving the whole team a chance to do something different, which could ultimately change their fate for the better.