It wasn’t surprising to see Ray Emery leave the Chicago Blackhawks for a chance to be a starting goaltender elsewhere during the offseason. Where the ‘Hawks went to replace him though, was surprising. They dipped far into the past and brought back a familiar goaltender in Nikolai Khabibulin.
All 40 years of him.
Chicago, of all teams, should have been aware of the importance of a competent backup goalie. Emery was incredibly important to the ‘Hawks as they made their playoff run last year. Starter Corey Crawford was able to get multiple nights off and was very fresh heading into the postseason.
If Thursday’s contest against the Tampa Bay Lightning was any indication, Khabibulin just doesn’t have the chops to be a goalie in this league any more. It’s only one bad game, sure. But what did the ‘Hawks honestly expect from the guy that couldn’t even hang on to the starting gig with the Edmonton Oilers?
Through two starts, the artist formally known as the Bulin Wall is sporing a .818 save percentage and his GAA is nearly at four. Chicago might be better off hosting a reality TV show where a random fan is given the opportunity to start a game for the ‘Hawks in a real life NHL hockey game.
They’d probably receive roughly the same quality of goaltending.
Crawford just can’t start every game for Chicago. It’d be tough for the Stanley Cup-winning goalie to start more than 60 while staying fresh enough for another four rounds of action. There’s been some worry about the ‘Hawks and their inability to protect a lead in the third. Jonathan Toews has been quiet. Duncan Keith has been shaky at times.
More so than any of those problems, the ‘Hawks need to find a backup for Crawford for the rest of the season. A real backup that can come in, stop more than seven out of every 10 shots and give this team a chance to win while the No. 1 rests.