The Chicago Blackhawks have found themselves in a tough situation.
A situation, however, that every team would love to be in. Especially the Blackhawks.
Coming into the lockout shortened season, the main problem on the team's depth chart was in between the pipes.
Corey Crawford and Ray Emery were both coming off less-than-stellar seasons. Their stats were in no way spectacular. While both were able to keep an above .500 record for the year, the team was also in the bottom half of the NHL in goals allowed.
Although you can't blame that stat completely on the two goaltenders, they definitely do play a role. The team allowed 2.82 goals per game. The Blackhawks were also the fourth worst team in the league when it came to giving up goals in five-on-five situations. They allowed 170 goals, 68 more than the league-leading St. Louis Blues.
So, it is easy to see that last season the Blackhawks were just not getting the type of goaltending they needed, especially to be considered a true Stanley Cup contender.
Those negative statistics of last season carried over to this year and people judged the team's so-called weakness in net. Although many pegged the Blackhawks as one of the top teams in the Western Conference, very few had them travelling to the Final.
The main reason why, their goaltending.
Well now that the season has begun, it seems everyone was wrong.
Does Ray Emery deserve more playing time?
The Blackhawks have lowered their goals allowed per game to 2.10, and that has helped in all aspects of their play.
Crawford and Emery have been playing great hockey since the start of the season.
Crawford seems to be back to his normal self, and although he does give up the occasional juicy rebound, he has also been responsible for backing up a sometimes questionable defensive effort in front of him.
Emery on the other hand, has done exactly what he needs to do as a backup. When asked to play, he has stepped up and given his team a chance to win. The most recent example came against the Calgary Flames. Emery stood on his head, making save after save, and eventually led his team to a shootout win.
With two goalies who are playing hot, do the Blackhawks need to consider who should spend more time in between the pipes?
No, I do not think they do.
This is Crawford's team, and no matter how well Emery is doing, he should never take over the No. 1 spot. The only exception to that is if Crawford suddenly loses the confidence he has developed. If he can't compete in a way that gives the Blackhawks the best possible chance for two points, then a change may need to be made.
Right now, however, Crawford has been a big part in every game. His confidence is sky high and you can notice that by the way he comes out and handles the puck.
No disrespect to Emery, but he knows where his place is on this team. He's played great and the guys all respect him for that.
The Blackhawks have two strong goalies at the moment, something they are not used too, and need to make sure they rotate them as best as possible.
If Crawford plays eight games to Emery's two, then that is just fine.
The season is tight and Emery will always be needed to give Crawford a rest, especially during the nights when the Blackhawks play back-to-back.
All in all, the team finds themselves in a great situation, but everyone has to know who the Blackhawks' No. 1 goaltender is.
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