Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Emery looking the part of a No. 1 goaltender
By Ben Goessling Special to ESPNChicago.com
Ray Emery has three shutouts in his last five games, including Tuesday's in Minnesota.
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Right now, the identity of the Blackhawks' No. 1 goaltender appears to be an open question. That wasn't the case a week ago, when both Ray Emery and coach Joel Quenneville suggested the job belonged to Corey Crawford.
But this is a whole new backdrop for a team that has dealt with its fair share of goaltending questions. Both Emery and Crawford are playing as well as they ever have in a Blackhawks uniform, and if they keep it up, the NHL's top team will be even more formidable when the playoffs begin at the end of the month.
Emery looked the part of Chicago's top goalie again on Tuesday night, stopping 20 shots in a 1-0 over win over the Minnesota Wild. It was his third shutout in five games, it dropped his goals-against average to 1.90 -- the sixth-best mark in the league -- and it made a compelling case he is every bit Crawford's equal right now.
"I think we're both just trying to do our best when we get the opportunity to play," Emery said. "You don't control when you get the start, but you want to be ready."
Both Blackhawks goalies now have 15 wins, and Crawford's goals-against average is a scant 2.01. A year ago, goaltending might have been the biggest problem on a team that lost in the first round of the playoffs.
Right now, it's tough to argue that anyone but Emery and Crawford are the league's top goaltending tandem.
"We're excited for whoever's in net," forward Patrick Kane said. "I think right now we're pretty confident in our team."
As Kane pointed out, goalie play was a concern for the Blackhawks before their Stanley Cup run in the 2010 playoffs, until Antti Niemi took the No. 1 job and posted a 2.63 goals-against average in 22 playoff games.
Chicago might need to settle on one goalie to start the majority of the playoff games, but right now, both Emery and Crawford seem comfortable dividing the role.
Quenneville wasn't in a hurry to name a starter for the Blackhawks' next game against the Detroit Red Wings after the win on Tuesday, saying he had a pretty good idea of what the team would do, but that decision would come later this week.
He said Crawford is completely healthy, but added he would talk about it with the coaching staff again.
With Emery's impressive play, and Chicago's defense efficiently scrubbing away second chances in front of him, the Blackhawks have never seemed so comfortable with not knowing who will start in goal.
"I think we're pretty strong up front, our defense played great, and Ray's played unreal the last three games," forward Marian Hossa said. "When Corey's in there, he's played good, too."