There is no doubt, be it from a diehard fan or just a casual observer to the team, the Chicago Blackhawks weakness is in between the pipes.
Not to say Corey Crawford and Ray Emery can not do the job, just there are more questions than answers when it comes to the shaky goaltending tandem.
Most of the pressure sits on the shoulders of Crawford, who was the Blackhawks starting goalie last year and is expected to be the same this time around. Last season he did not have a very good year and much criticism among fans was sent his way.
Call it the sophomore slump if you like, but the pressing matter is if he will be able to turn things around this year.
As for Emery, he knows what is expected of him. The Blackhawks re-signed him because he is one of the top backup's in the league. If he plays well that is. Last season he showed he can still play in the NHL after returning from a serious injury.
Emery is a battler and will try to prove he can be a starting goaltender. Let's be serious, he is not the player who wants to be on the bench 75 percent of the time.
No matter which goalie is being discussed, there is always a chance that things will not go as planned. There are best and worse case scenarios to everything.
Crawford could turn things around, or maybe he is not the goalie the Blackhawks thought he was? Emery could continue to prove he is a capable goalie, or maybe an increase in games will be too much for him to handle?
Best Case Scenario
The best case scenario surrounding the Blackhawks goaltenders would be for Corey Crawford to have a bounce back year. That means forgetting about last season and going back to the way he played during the 2010/11 campaign.
Crawford is not an all-star goalie by any means, but he does have talent. The Hockey News describes him as a No. 1 goalie with the opportunity to become an elite netminder in the NHL. If he can play as his scouting report suggests, he should control the Blackhawks crease for a long time.
For Crawford to have a great year, he will have to drastically improve over last season. Not that his numbers were outrageously bad, but his consistency was not there to be considered a true No. 1 goalie for a contending team.
If this pans out as planned, Ray Emery should expect somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 games throughout the season. That is something he can certainly handle with ease.
Emery will be looking to earn himself another contract for next season and will need to play well in order to earn it. He is a very good goalie and has always put up decent numbers wherever he is playing. The pressure will be on him to perform this year.
All that should be expected of Emery in a best case scenario is to give Crawford a break when needed. If he is given the start, Emery has to come into the crease confident and ready to play well. Nothing to it.
Worst Case Scenario
Without making any ridicules claims, such as Crawford and Emery both suffering season ending injuries, here is what could be a viable worst case scenario for the team.
It is possible that Crawford may have had one lucky year in the NHL. Last year he may have shown his true capabilities and he could have another season like that, or worse. This would not be good for the Blackhawks.
If Crawford is not able to improve on last year and he does in fact regress even more, then that will mean much more playing time for Ray Emery. Even though Emery is a capable goalie, he has only ever played a substantial workload once over a full NHL season (2006/07 with the Senators).
Having Emery start frequently is not the plan for the Blackhawks. They want Crawford to be their goalie for next season, and beyond.
Now if Emery is not able to play well also, that may mean the Blackhawks will have to sacrifice young talent in order to acquire a proven goalie. If the two goalies can not make a solid impression on the team and show they have turned their games around, then this may need to happen.
Both of them will need to improve on their numbers from last season, or a playoff spot may be out of the picture. The Blackhawks are to good of a team to lose an absurd amount of games, but they will be expecting their goaltenders to come up big at the right moments.
This upcoming season could go both ways for the Blackhawks goaltenders. Although most signs point to a resurrection in the crease, the opposite could happen just as easily. Most of the fingers will be pointed at Corey Crawford to turn things around and right the ship.
Do not be surprised if both of them play poorly for the Hawks to take a serious interest in available, or thought to be available, goaltenders.