Chicago Blackhawks: Despite 2 Losses, Corey Crawford Solid in His Return

Jon FromiSenior Analyst IJanuary 6, 2014

Corey Crawford has looked good since returning from last month's lower-body injury.
Corey Crawford has looked good since returning from last month's lower-body injury.Bill Smith/Getty Images

Despite the results of the last three games, the Chicago Blackhawks do not have a controversy between the pipes.

Corey Crawford made his return to the lineup Thursday evening after missing nearly a month with a lower-body injury. The Blackhawks have dropped each of the two games Crawford has started since returning, but I am not hanging those losses on him.

Chicago fell to the San Jose Sharks 3-2 in a shootout Sunday night. The 'Hawks also lost Thursday's game to the New York Islanders by that same score, losing in overtime to New York. Meanwhile, Antti Raanta took the net Friday as the Blackhawks defeated New Jersey 5-3.

What does that say about the goalie situation in Chicago? Nothing more than the status quo. Crawford is the starter for the defending Stanley Cup champions and Raanta will serve as the backup.

Raanta remains on the roster after Chicago sent veteran Jason LaBarbera to Rockford Saturday. However, Raanta's workload will be pared back drastically after coming up big during Crawford's absence.

Crawford is still looking for his first win since Nov. 29. That isn't to say that his play has been poor since coming back.

He gave up just two regulation goals to the Islanders in his first game back. On Sunday, he was the primary reason the 'Hawks were able to come away with a point against the visiting Sharks.

Despite facing 76 shots in those two games, Crawford posted a .934 save percentage in that time. He faced 30 shots in the second and third periods in Sunday's contest.

Chicago was schooled at the faceoff dot in the final 40 minutes of regulation. The Sharks had a host of prime scoring chances following successful draws in the 'Hawks' zone.

San Jose's second goal came in the third period after Brent Burns appeared to cross-check Niklas Hjalmarsson before Joe Thornton found him open at the left post. It's no fair crying about the officials, but you can't pin what was the tying goal on Crawford.

The pecking order in goal throughout the organization seems to be solidified for the moment. Crawford and Raanta will reside in Chicago. LaBarbera should get the bulk of the work for a struggling IceHogs club, with Kent Simpson in reserve. Mac Carruth is now back in Toledo.

All the while, Nikolai Khabibulin mends from his November groin injury. There is no timetable for his possible return. We may have seen the last from the 40-year-old Khabibulin.

The names may move around below him in the pecking order, but Crawford has earned his spot at the top.