NHL Playoffs 2012: Why Chicago Blackhawks Should Start Carter Hutton in Game 5
When the Hawks were surging down the stretch during their championship season in 2009/10, Hutton was completing the senior season of an impressive career at U-Mass Lowell.
This season, after starting off with the ECHL's Toledo Walleye as an unaffiliated prospect, Hutton was recalled to the Rockford IceHogs, where he would be named team MVP.
Hutton has appeared in the preseason for the San Jose Sharks, but the closest he's come to actual NHL action has been a couple of times he's been called up from Rockford to serve as an emergency goalie, though the situation always settled itself before Hutton would have a chance to dress for a game.
I genuinely believe that the Blackhawks' best chance to stave off elimination is to bench both Corey Crawford and Ray Emery for what could be the Hawks' last game of the season in Phoenix.
While Crawford carried the Hawks last season, and Emery has gone deep into the postseason as the starting goaltender, neither has been impressive this season—to the point that neither goalie posted a shutout all season.
By comparison, New Jersey Devils backup Johan Hedberg had four shutouts in only 27 games played.
En route to his team MVP award, Hutton notched three shutouts in 43 games for Rockford, posting a 2.35 GAA and .917 save percentage. It'd be hard to argue that Hutton didn't make major strides in his development as a goalie this season.
Should the Hawks go with Hutton in Game 5?
Thus far in the playoffs, Crawford has been good at best. Emery hasn't appeared, but during the regular season, he was average at best away from the United Center (3.35 GAA).
Neither option seems to provide much hope for the team. Watching Crawford leave the ice the last two games after Mikkel Boedker beat him in two straight overtimes, Crawford seems to be totally demoralized.
Hutton had what was easily the best season of his professional career this year. Giving him the chance with everything on the line would likely add to his confidence. Should he have a strong first period, it'd be hard to bet against Hutton, even with Mike Smith's high-caliber play in the other end.
At this point, the Hawks desperately need a spark.
The hit on Hossa was unable to do this, nor has the lineup juggling. Neither have youngsters Brandon Saad and Dylan Olsen, nor veterans Sean O'Donnell and Brendan Morrison.
Putting Hutton in the game would surely be a major gamble; however, the potential upside is higher than that of a win by Crawford or Emery.
At this point, it's something the Hawks should do. If it fails, at least they tried something bold.
UPDATE: Crawford went 18/19 in net to get the win. While I'll admit he did play well, I somehow think that Hutton could have also gone 18/19.
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