Breathe, Blackhawks fans. Breathe.
Im not going to argue last nights game in Nashville was a pretty vision. It wasnt. But judging by the knee-jerk (emphasis on jerk) reactions on the ol TweetDeck as I kept one eye on that, the other on the game, and the other on writing my share of the SportsNet Central highlights, youd think the team had morphed from a seven-game points streak into the Columbus Blue Jackets (the same Jackets the Red Wings needed to get past in a shootout at home Saturday night, by the way).
Simply put, there were too many passengers. Thats never a good idea against Nashville. Its worse when they try to pull that off on the road. Its even worse when the Preds had been playing their tails off lately and still found themselves six points behind the Hawks with only a game in-hand. Marian Hossa was great, Patrick Sharp wasnt there, Jonathan Toews wasnt there for almost half the game. Patrick Kane was unable to bring with him the night he had 24 hours before. The supporting cast that had sparked that unbeaten run couldnt provide any production, either. They drew just one power play, and for the second straight game, managed only 22 shots on goal. And Corey Crawford let in a bad goal whether it was a bounce, or a poor read that further solidified the tempo and momentum the Preds had already established.
Crawford was actually good in the first period to get out of it 1-1. But everyone forgets that, and the results he got prior to that, courtesy of that one bad period. Calling on the coaching staff to immediately hand the job over to Ray Emery (probably the same people who questioned Emery making the team in the first place) would be a panic-button move. Despite the dogfight for points in the West, its still not time to panic.
It means they wouldnt trust what Crawford did for them last year, the investment they made in him in the off-season, and the way he bounced back strong after watching Emery play ahead of him last month. Has Crawford been as top-end consistent as he was as a rookie? Probably not. Has Emery been good? You bet. But translating three goals in an 11-minute span into losing your job, at this point, tears down the long-term goalie everyone around here believes was discovered a year ago.
Lucky for us, the Hawks dont get to see us have bad days at work, but thats part of their deal.
Crawfords season has reflected what Detroits Jimmy Howard went through last season following an outstanding rookie year. Theyve both been brought along slowly. Mike Babcock stuck with Howard through the bumps. And you see what hes doing right now. Unfortunately, there arent many goalies out there who dont have a few bad games each season.
This is by no means a final answer on the goalie situation. If there are more games and goals that can be pinned squarely on him, Joel Quenneville will start turning more towards Emery. Id imagine well start to get clearer answers in the three weeks of road games that follow next Sundays All-Star Game. If given the opportunity for redemption in Tuesdays rematch with Nashville, lets see how he responds. Sitting at this same point of the season over the last four years (and not knowing what lies ahead) which goalie tandem have you felt most comfortable with? Khabibulin-Huet? Niemi-Huet? Crawford-Turco? Or Crawford-Emery?
Right now, worry more about health, across-the-board effort (especially on the road), and finding the right pieces to add at the trade deadline. It shouldnt be goalie. Not yet.