Chicago Blackhawks: Ray Emery Gets His Shot to Replace Struggling Corey Crawford

Jon FromiSenior Analyst IFebruary 7, 2012

If Ray Emery has a big week in goal this week, the starting job may be his to lose.
If Ray Emery has a big week in goal this week, the starting job may be his to lose.Dale MacMillan/Getty Images

Just over four months ago, the Chicago Blackhawks were being second-guessed for the decision to sign Ray Emery as Corey Crawford's backup in goal. Tuesday night in Colorado, Emery may just be on his way to wresting the starting job from Crawford.

We've seen this before. Consider week two of Chicago's nine-game road trip Emery's formal audition.

Back in October, the debate was whether Alexander Salak had earned the spot behind Crawford. Few saw the logic in retaining an experienced goaltender who had been unimpressive at camp.

Now Salak is just returning from a two-month layoff from an ankle injury in what has been a disappointing season in Rockford. The debate now is whether Joel Quenneville would be contemplating a switch in net if not for Emery and his performance for the 'Hawks to date.

We all remember the impressive December Emery had while Crawford sorted out what is rapidly resembling a sophomore slump. Tuesday will mark the first time Emery has made consecutive starts since he went 5-1 from December 8 to the December 20.

Crawford has opened the door with inconsistent play. He has been pulled for Emery twice in his last four starts. A big effort in Vancouver was followed by a disastrous performance against Edmonton. Crawford's goals against average sits at 2.94 for the season. His save percentage is .900.

Statistically, Emery hasn't been much better (2.74 goals against, .904 save percentage). However, Quenneville is apparently going to give the veteran goalie the opportunity to reverse Chicago's fortunes on the road this week.

The 'Hawks have lost five in a row dating back to January 21 and claimed just one of six points in Western Canada last week. Neither goalie has looked good when the defense has faltered. What Quenneville is looking for is some consistency.

Quenneville is stopping short of anointing Emery as his starter, but the pattern is familiar. He rode the hot hand in his backup earlier in the year and gave the incumbent ample opportunity to right the ship. Now comes another shot for Emery.

Emery gave up three goals in a loss in Calgary Friday night, but it looks like Quenneville will kick his tires for an extended stretch. I wouldn't say that Emery is inked into the number one spot from here on out. On the other hand, three solid starts will certainly give him the inside track.