Positional Reviews: Goalies
May 4, 2017, 1:55 PM ET [49 Comments]
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OVERALL GRADE: A-
It’s almost hard to imagine giving an “A” grade to any position on a team recently (and embarrassingly) swept out of the first round of the playoffs.
But part of that embarrassment was due to having gone into the playoffs as the #1 seed in the conference, with the second best overall record in the league.
And Corey Crawford was not the reason the Hawks got swept by Nashville.
In fact, although this touches on the subject of two subsequent blogs, goaltending was arguably (actually, it wasn’t even debatable) the strength of the Blackhawks this past season. Statistically, especially through the first part of the season, the skaters were not getting the job done, and were being bailed out night after night by outstanding goaltending from Crawford and backup (and present Carolina Hurricane) Scott Darling.
The overall team came around for stretches, and the goaltending never really faltered. And those two factors, as much as anything, may explain why the Hawks finished where they did in the regular season. There were those, myself included, who really struggled to embrace this team as a potential Cup contender–in spite of its goaltending. The first round erased all doubt. Darling never saw the ice in four playoff games—Crawford never played his way off.
The losses were really on the coaching staff and the skaters. But that, like I said, is a discussion for another day (soon).
32-18-0-5 (2 shutouts)
.918 sv% 2.55 GAA
18-5-0-5 (2 shutouts)
.921 sv% 2.38 GAA
The numbers are good enough, without question, but they’re even better when you consider that the Hawks finished ninth in the league in overall shots allowed per game at 31.4 (as in, there were only 8 teams that allowed more), and 24th on the penalty kill at 77.7%.
Sure, some of that PK number can be attributed to goaltending, yet the Hawks started the season mired in the basement of the league on the PK—when the goaltending was saving the team night after night.
Goaltending now goes from a fairly significant team strength to a serious question, with the loss of Darling. As everyone knows, the current backup is an AHL journeyman named Jeff Glass. Glass is so obscure, there are actually conflicting reports on the internet as to what country he’s from. And there are literally no plausible prospects in the system as far as NHL potential in 2017-18.
My hunch is the Hawks will invite just about any goalie with significant pro experience and a set of pads to camp this fall, and they’ll battle it out for the right to back up Crawford.
Crawford is playing at a level that suggests he’s still in his prime.
There have been suggestions—in fact, I heard it from a very solid and proven source—that the team first asked Crawford to submit his list of 10 teams, before eventually deciding to move Darling. This was purely intended to ultimately save money at the position, not because anyone thought Darling was the better netminder (he isn’t), but merely that he would be good enough—and at a lower cost as a #1.
I also heard (from a separate source that I don’t know as well) that Crawford stocked his list with teams that would not be in the market for a goalie, and the dialogue between the veteran goalie, his agent, and the team was not exactly positive. Hard to say about that last bit. But if it were true, then one might wonder how solid and secure Crawford is long-term with the Hawks.
For now, the safe bet would be on his returning in net for Chicago this fall as the #1—and that would be something good to build around.
Defense, followed by forwards, then coaches.
ON EK/DROUIN REPORT:
The Hawks were strongly interested in Drouin in early 2016. While I have not heard anything about discussions recently, I would not be the least bit surprised, as Drouin brings qualities overall lacking in the Hawk forward group at present.
All for now,