'Dependable' Emery will start vs. Avalanche

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'Dependable' Emery will start vs. Avalanche

Updated: Monday, Feb. 6 at 6:09 p.m.

Joel Quenneville rolled out his reasons for going with Ray Emery against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday.

Hes been solid, predictable and dependable. The guys played well in front of him the other night and he gave us a chance to get a point or two, he said. Unfortunately we didnt, but he deserves another start.

Basically, Quenneville said of Emery, every time hes been in the net for us this year hes been consistent.

Yes, Emery has been consistent. And right now, thats what the very inconsistent Chicago Blackhawks need.

Emery will get his second consecutive start on Tuesday night, as the Blackhawks look to end a five-game winless skid (0-4-1) in Denver. Corey Crawford will take a step back once again, much like he did in early December when Emery took the reins and went on a winning streak.

Perhaps that could happen again.

I think in Rays situation, he hasnt had a great chance to run with it, Quenneville said. Coreys had a lot of key games here recently. Well see how it plays out.

Ideally, Quenneville would like to have both his goaltenders as reliable, go-to options. But outside of a run from late December to mid-January, when Crawford and Emery were swapping in and out and both winning, that hasnt happened.

Granted, the differences in their goals-against average and save percentages arent tremendous. Crawford has a 2.94 GAA and a .900 save percentage while Emerys numbers are 2.73 and .904, respectively. But when Emery plays he wins, as hes compiled an 11-4-2 mark this season.

While Crawford cant be blamed for all of the Blackhawks recent woes the team defense has been suspect at best he hasnt been as strong as he could be. He certainly hasnt been as strong as he was last season, when his work down the stretch helped push the Blackhawks into the postseason.

Crawford admits he hasnt been as good as he could be, but doesnt think its about teams solving him from one season to the next.

Its still pretty much the same game, the same shots. I dont think thats the case where teams are figuring me out. The only problem is the consistency.

Is this going to be another case of backup replaces No. 1 goaltender for the top job? The Blackhawks have been down this path a few consecutive seasons already. But Quenneville isnt willing to commit to that road again just yet.

We dont want to get too far in advance. (Emerys) done well so well see how it goes, he said. Goaltending is a key part of our game. A lot of times a team in front responds to how the goaltender is playing.

The Blackhawks need a response to their current slide. Theyll see if Emery can provide the presence to spark it.

Blackhawks acquire Michael Latta from Kings in swap of minor leaguers

Blackhawks acquire Michael Latta from Kings in swap of minor leaguers

The Blackhawks made a minor league deal on Saturday, announcing the acquisition of forward Michael Latta from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for defenseman Cameron Schilling.

Latta, 25, has two goals and four assists in 29 games this season with the Ontario (Calif.) Reign of the American Hockey League.

He has four goals and 13 assists in 113 career games in the National Hockey League, all with the Washington Capitals from 2013-16.

Latta, who was a third-round pick (No. 72 overall) by the Nashville Predators in 2009, will report to the AHL's Rockford IceHogs. He carries a $600,000 cap hit, and is a restricted free agent at the end of the season.

Schilling ranked second among defensemen on the IceHogs with 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 40 games, and had a minus-3 rating. The 28-year-old blue liner signed a two-year contract worth $575,000 per season with the Blackhawks in July 2015.

One-goal victories are great but Blackhawks’ method has to change

One-goal victories are great but Blackhawks’ method has to change

See the Blackhawks get off to a slow start. See the Blackhawks get outshot. See the Blackhawks lean on their goaltending. See the Blackhawks find some offense in the third period. See the Blackhawks win.

This is a story the Blackhawks have written and played out plenty this season. Despite all evidence that it should work out to the contrary, the Blackhawks continue to pull out victories. But as we're well into the second half of the season, how much longer can they win with this formula? And is this, more than anything, a testament to how much they need to acquire someone (or plural) at the deadline to bolster their forward lineup?

Entering Sunday night's game against Vancouver the Blackhawks remain second in the Western Conference, two points behind Minnesota. Not surprisingly, they enter Sunday coming off another one-goal victory, a 1-0 decision over Boston on Friday night. Friday's game was cut from the same cloth as so many other one-goal games this season (please see above for the script). 

Here's how the Blackhawks are doing in one-goal games (through 48 games played this season) and how they've done in previous seasons:

Year Record
2016-17 18-7-5
2015-16 17-7-9
2014-15 22-13-6
2013-14 17-8-15
2012-13 19-3-5 (lockout yr.)
2011-12 22-6-11
2010-11 16-13-9
2009-10 23-9-8

The Blackhawks played 41 one-goal games (half of their regular-season games) in the 2014-15 season. Thirty of their 48 games this season have been one-goal games. But again, it comes down to how you're winning those games, and the Blackhawks are winning just about all of them in the same way: deal with a slow start and come back in the third period, relying on goaltending the entire time.

Being outshot the amount of times the Blackhawks have this season remains alarming. Sure, sometimes a lot of shots don't mean a lot of quality chances. But it's still better than minimal shots, and any shot can be an opportunity for a rebound, a deflection, something. From our stats guru Chris Kamka, here's a breakdown of the Blackhawks' shots per game vs. opponents, dating back to 2008-09:

Year Shots/Gm Opp. Shots/Gm Diff.
2008-09 32.7 28.6 +4.2
2009-10 34.1 25.1 +9.1
2010-11 32.2 28.7 +3.6
2011-12 31.5 28.6 +3.0
2012-13 31.1 26.2 +4.9
2013-14 33.1 27.2 +6.0
2014-15 33.9 30.2 +3.8
2015-16 30.5 30.8 -0.3
2016-17 29.3 31.1 -1.7

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

It's no surprise that the Blackhawks' differential was especially good in their Stanley Cup-winning seasons (and even 2013-14, when they went to the Western Conference Final). Those Blackhawks teams were deep, especially at forward. They weren't waiting for the perfect shooting opportunities as much as just firing. They had great four-line rotations, something they've sorely been lacking the past two seasons, which makes a difference with puck possession.

The Blackhawks will see what's available at the trade deadline. As I wrote a few days ago, there will be names out there but, considering some teams are still hoping for playoff spots, you take mentions for what they are right now. Over the next few weeks the picture will become clearer, and adding the right depth could rekindle that four-line rotation.

We've said throughout this season that the Blackhawks can't keep this up. We said it in November, and December, and now. Understand where we're coming from here; the Blackhawks can absolutely keep winning one-goal games. They've shown that in recent seasons and in the postseason, when the ability to do that is critical. But it's doubtful they can keep doing it the way they have most this season.