Corey Crawford Quickly Erasing Antti Niemi from Chicago Blackhawks' Memory

Randy HoltContributor INovember 8, 2010

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 7: Goaltender Corey Crawford #50 of the Chicago Blackhawks faces shots during warmups prior to playing against the Colorado Avalanche during both team's season openers at the Pepsi Center on October 7, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)
Marc Piscotty/Getty Images

Make no mistake about it, there is no goalie controversy in Chicago.  Marty Turco is the starter and pending some type of Cristobal Huet-type meltdown, he will remain the starter until his one-year deal is up.  However, the play of Corey Crawford in the early going has to have Blackhawks fans excited about their future in net.

Just as it can be with starting pitchers in the Major Leagues, Crawford's win-loss record is deceiving compared to how well he has really played.  He got off to a bit of a rough start, surrendering two quick goals to Buffalo in his first start of the season, but buckled down and went on to make 32 saves.

We've only seen him in four games since getting the nod against the Sabres, and he has performed well.  He's started three of those four games, with the other being mop-up duty against Edmonton, after a dismal start for Turco.  He's taken the loss in all four, despite solid performances, including a 40-save performance against Columbus.

It helps to look good, when the guy you're essentially replacing in the "future" department is struggling with his new squad.  Antti Niemi has played very poorly since moving to the West Coast, winning just one of his four starts and playing a backup role to Antero Niittymaki.  

Let's not forget, Crawford and Niemi were almost on an equal level going into the 2009-2010 season, when the Hawks were looking for a backup to Huet.  Niemi won out, mainly due to a groin injury that Crawford had suffered in the preseason that wasn't healed in time for the season to start.

Crawford's most recent start, against Edmonton, has given even more of an indication that he may be finally ready, after seven years in the Blackhawks organization, to take the reins in goal.  Despite taking another loss, Crawford was outstanding for 59 minutes and 46 seconds, with the only two Oilers goals coming in that 14-second span.

It's a small sample space, to be sure, but Crawford has flashed signs of being a more than formidable goaltender.  His record is less of a reflection of his play in net, and more of a display of the Blackhawks' inability to score early on.  His .905 save percentage, and a 2.82 goals against average, don't necessarily reflect a guy with a 1-4 record.

I'm still among those who think the goaltender job in Chicago is Turco's job and his alone.  Many feel his performance in goal has been lackluster so far, but he's faced more shots than he was expected to, especially with the injury to Brian Campbell in the preseason.  Some of that may be attributed to his cavalier ways with the puck, which some Chicago fans may not have adapted to yet.  

Even with Turco in net for this season, Blackhawks fans can certainly look forward to seeing Crawford between the pipes next season and beyond.