Breaking down Crawford vs. Emery

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Breaking down Crawford vs. Emery

Here we go again. The Chicago Blackhawks are revisiting the dreaded goalie controversy.

We think. Well, were not sure. And after talking to coach Joel Quenneville on Friday, he may not be, either.

Corey Crawford started this series with the Phoenix Coyotes beautifully, helping the Blackhawks to a 1-1 series split in Glendale. But a funny thing happened on the way to playoff retribution: Crawford gave up two really bad, soft goals in the past two games. And that could be overlooked somewhat, if they werent both game winners.

So as the Blackhawks headed to Arizona on Friday, where theyre facing elimination down 3-1 in this Western Conference quarterfinal series, the inevitable question arose: is Crawford your goaltender for Game 5?

Were talking about that, Quenneville said.

And there you have it. The door has been opened and the possibility is there. On the brink of a first-round dismissal for the second consecutive season, the Blackhawks may be thinking about Ray Emery in net.

So is going with Emery the best solution for this conundrum? Lets have a look at each choice.

Go with Emery

The backup goaltender, who the Blackhawks extended through 2012-13 earlier this month, has come in and done well in these instances before. When Crawford was struggling through two significant periods this regular season, Emery was strong. He got the Blackhawks through those times, and looked pretty good doing it.

Any semblance of that serious hip injury that nearly ended his career seem gone. The one thing he showed during Crawfords down time was poise. He didnt stray far from the net, didnt make erratic moves around it. He was square, solid and, especially at home, reliable.

The call for Emery may also be the spark the Blackhawks in front of him need. The Blackhawks know they have to be better, and that especially goes for their top players. They know they have to be better. It wouldnt be the first time that a goalie change is as much for the other starters as it is the one in net.

And Emery has playoff experience, too. The veteran has been through it all. So getting thrown in for a must-win Game 5 would just be par for the course.
Go with Crawford

Its easy to put all the blame on Crawfords shoulders, and theres no doubt that, as a goaltender, thats just part of the gig. Youre the last line of defense; and his defense against Mikkel Boedkers last two winning goals was awful.

But to put heap everything on Crawford is unfair. The Blackhawks power play, once again, has been invisible. Theyve made life easy on Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith, talking traffic non-stop but never putting it on front of him on a regular basis. If the Blackhawks arent waiting for the final two minutes of every game to get traffic, get those ugly goals on Smith to force overtime, then the onus isnt on him a the end.

The Blackhawks continue to back both their netminders.

We have confidence in both our goalies, said defenseman Duncan Keith, who is aware of the pressure on them. Goaltending is a position somewhat like defensemen. Were the last line of defense, and hes the very last line of defense. You can be a hero one day and a goat the next. Coreys been great for us, had his best games in the playoffs last year when we were facing elimination.

Its going to be a tough call for Game 5. And whatever that call is, how much does is say how the Blackhawks feel about each goaltender moving forward?

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Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks battle Bruins tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks battle Bruins tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Boston Bruins tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Scott Darling gets the nod.

Joel Quenneville is giving a struggling Corey Crawford a breather tonight, electing to go with Darling in the final game of the father's road trip. Darling is 11-4-2 with a 2.34 goals against average, .924 save percentage and one shutout in 20 games this season. His numbers aren't as great on the road, where he is 4-2-1 with a 2.83 GAA and .901 save percentage compared to a 7-2-1 record with a 1.98 GAA and .928 save percentage at home, but he fared well against Boston last season. The Lemont native stopped 42 of 46 shots, good for a .913 save percentage, in a 6-4 win at the United Center last April.

2. The Panarin-Anisimov-Kane line.

The Blackhawks' trio of Artem Anisimov, Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin had a rare zero points in Tuesday's 6-4 win over Colorado, but don't expect to see that again. In fact, it could be the opposite. In their last meeting against the Bruins, a 6-4 win on April 3 during the 2015-16 season, they combined for 11 points (five goals, six assists), highlighted by a Kane hat trick that put him at 100 points on the season for the first time in his career. 

3. How the rookies build off a monsterous game.

In arguably the most well-rounded victory of the season Tuesday in Colorado, the Blackhawks had three rookies that had multi-point efforts. Vinnie Hinostroza had two goals, including the game winner. Tanner Kero had two goals and one assist, while Nick Schmaltz also had a goal and an assist. It was the top-six that was doing the heavy lifting earlier in the season, now the bottom-six is slowly starting to contribute on a consistent basis. The Blackhawks will be in great shape if they can confidently roll four lines that have the potential to find the back of the net on any given shift.

4. Patrice Bergeron vs. Jonathan Toews.

Two of the best two-way centers in the league will go head-to-head, and it's always a fun matchup to watch. Bergeron leads the league with 597 faceoff wins, and is ranked fifth with a 58.4 percentage at the dot while Toews ranks eighth in wins with 473 — despite missing nine games with a back injury — and sits at sixth with a 57.5 percentage. Both of the perennial Selke Trophy candidates have struggled offensively this season, with Bergeron recording only 21 points in 45 games and Toews with 22 points in 38 contests. Bergeron has been heating up as of late, though, scoring three goals and six assists in his last eight games. Bergeron also leads the league in possession numbers, with the Bruins controlling 61.9 percent of the even-strength shot attempts when he's on the ice.

5. Brad Marchand.

In September, Marchand inked an eight-year, $49 million deal and it's already paying dividends for the Bruins. He has 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in his last eight games, and 45 points total, which is by far the most on his team and tied for sixth in the NHL. He's 16 points away from tying his career high of 61 set last season, with a little less than half the year to go. He's also had great success against the Blackhawks. In his last six games against Chicago, dating back to the 2013-14 campaign, he has registered at least a point in all of them, scoring four goals and adding five assists. To make life more difficult, he's a player that enjoys getting under people's skin, so expect him to be a big factor tonight.

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