Experts always say defense wins games, but that’s especially true in hockey. If you have goaltending, especially in the playoffs where it matters most, you will win games. That’s exactly how the eighth-seeded Los Angeles Kings completely dominated last year’s playoffs and en route to winning the Stanley Cup.
Goaltending and defense are exactly why the Chicago Blackhawks saw themselves eliminated in the first round by the Phoenix Coyotes last season. Blackhawks starting goaltender Corey Crawford, posted a .893 save percentage (SV), along with a 2.58 goals against average (GAA). Both numbers are subpar compared to the Kings’ Jonathan Quick’s .946 SV and the 1.41 GAA in last season’s playoffs.
The ‘Hawks can score, but no team can dig themselves out of a ditch over-and-over again in the playoffs.
Seeing how Crawford played in the postseason last year, most NHL writers and fans, including myself, doubted whether he or backup goaltender Ray Emery would be sufficient to bring the ‘Hawks back to Stanley Cup contention. So far the two net-minders have proven everyone wrong.
They have done a complete 180 this season. Both of the goaltenders’ GAA are below 2.00, good enough for the third and fourth spots on the league’s leaderboard. Emery became the first goaltender in NHL history to go 10-0-0 (he’d break his record twice, posting a 12-0-0 before losing his first game) in a season, and now has a 17-1-0 record as a backup.
Naturally, this has created a debate on who should be the starting goaltender, sparking what some are referring to as a “goalie controversy.” That is a term most NHL fans hate to hear, but in the Blackhawks’ case it’s a good thing.
The ‘Hawks aren’t new to goalie controversies. Over the past few seasons, the team’s starting goaltender always lost his job to the backup at some point during the season as a result of poor play. This season, Chicago has two goaltenders playing the best hockey of their careers and little idea who should get the starting role.
I think it’s a pretty good problem to have.
This idea that the ‘Hawks have a goalie controversy is a luxury right now. Both guys have shown they can consistently play well over a long stretch, and that’s exactly what teams need in the playoffs.
So people should stop this “who should start tonight” nonsense, and just be glad the Blackhawks finally have the defense to match their offense.
It’s going to be a fun postseason.