Breaking down Crawford vs. Emery

Breaking down Crawford vs. Emery
April 20, 2012, 10:45 pm
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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?