A couple of big stories came out following the Chicago Blackhawks’ practice on Thursday morning. The obvious one was that forwards Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp will be sitting out again on Friday when the Hawks battle the Anaheim Ducks. The more unexpected one was that goaltender Ray Emery will be getting the start against those Ducks tomorrow evening.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why head coach Joel Quenneville is going with Emery again. Not only did Corey Crawford struggle mightily on Monday, coughing up rebounds left and right and giving up a couple of soft tallies, but Emery had a good game the next night, shutting out the Calgary Flames and stopping all 16 shots he faced.
Emery getting two starts in a row is a departure from the way the Hawks have operated all season. With the exception of when Crawford was dealing with injury issues, he has been the number one guy in net this year, and Emery has come in when the schedule gets a bit more compacted than usual.
This time, however, it appears as though Emery may be receiving an opportunity from Quenneville to usurp Crawford’s role on the team. This move would follow a pattern set by the team in the Quenneville era if that’s the case. In 2009, Nikolai Khabibulin was given the reins late in the season despite the offseason acquisition of Cristobal Huet. In 2010, Huet was once again passed over for the starting job when Antti Niemi got the call and took the team all the way to the title. In 2011, Crawford himself won the starting job with his solid play, taking Marty Turco out of the spot. The only interruption to that pattern was last year, when Crawford held onto the starting job from wire to wire.
Whether or not Quenneville is right to be going with Emery will remain to be seen, but one would have to imagine that with only 16 games left in the season, Coach Q could be killing two birds with one stone with this move. He could be giving Emery an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of Niemi and company, but at the same time be issuing a wakeup call to his young goaltender that the starting job he has held down for the past two years isn’t a guaranteed gig.
Either way, this looks to be a savvy move by a veteran coach, and could give Hawks fans a glimpse of the immediate future as this team tries to lock down the top spot in the Western Conference.