With 6:32 left to go in the first period of the Chicago Blackhawks meeting with the Florida Panthers, Blackhawks fans gasped in collective horror when netminder Corey Crawford could not get to his feet after making a save and pushing off to his right to gain better position on the ensuing play. Patrick Sharp mentioned that he tried to ask Crawford what happened but he was in too much pain on the ice to respond. Crawford was helped off of the ice and Antti Raanta took over in net for the remainder of the game.
Sheer panic gripped hearts across Blackhawks fandom with over half of the third period left when former Blackhawk/IceHog, Jimmy Hayes, crashed the net on a rush and collided with Raanta. The sight of Raanta sprawled on the ice with his helmet lying next to the net raised the question of who would play goalie if Raanta could not continue. Raanta was able to go on, crediting this to his head being like a rock in his postgame interview. After the game, Coach Joel Quenneville joked about the emergency goalie situation and other interviews indicated that Andrew Shaw may have volunteered to take the net. This should not shock anyone as Shaw is like a loyal mutt who will do absolutely anything to please his master no matter the pain or humiliation involved in the task.
Crawford is to be reevaluated on Monday morning after Quenneville indicated he did not think the injury was "too serious". Put that into your Coach Q injury decoder ring and take it for what it's worth. The team's next game is on Tuesday evening against the offensively explosive Dallas Stars. Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn have turned into an exciting combination that is sure to exhaust even the most elite goalies in the league. If Crawford's injury will keep him out as a starter or backup on Tuesday, look for the Blackhawks to call up Rockford IceHogs' goaltender, Kent Simpson.
Simpson won the backup job out of camp behind Raanta for the IceHogs to start the season. When Shea Weber's slapshot caused Nikolai Khabibulin to blow out his groin and the Nashville Predators in turn blew out the Blackhawks, Raanta was called up and Simpson took over the starting role in Rockford. Simpson started out his career in the WHL for the Everett Silvertips in 2007 as a 16 year old. He was drafted by the Blackhawks in the second round (58th overall) in 2010, signing a three year entry level deal in the spring of 2012. Simpson appeared in one game for the Blackhawks AHL affiliate Rockford IceHogs in 2012 before being assigned to the Toledo Walleye of the ECHL.
During the 2012-13 season with Toledo, Simpson appeared in 41 games with a record of 20-14-5 and 3 playoff games. Simpson's .912 Save Percentage with the Walleye is pretty impressive given that the ECHL is known to be very unkind to goalies. Simpson split time with Detroit Red Wings prospect, Petr Mrazek, who has also seen some NHL starts, while in Toledo.
This season in the AHL, Simpson has appeared in 15 games with a record of 6-7-0. His stats include a .900 Sv% and 3.38 GAA (Goals Against Average). He currently holds the Rockford IceHogs single game save record of 49 saves set in a 3-1 loss to the San Antonio Rampage on October 15, 2013. His last start for Rockford was a 30 save effort in a 5-2 win against the Charlotte Checkers.
Kent Simpson is 6'3", 200 pounds and only 21 years old. He catches left and uses his size to his advantage to take up a lot of net. All reports seem to agree that he has good controlled movement in the net and is technically sound. While expectations are that Simpson will be an NHL goalie at some point in the future, 21 is awfully young to expect much at the NHL level since goalies usually take much longer to develop than skaters do.
In short, the Blackhawks will be hoping that Crawford's injury is minor and will not require much time to heal. In the meantime, Antti Raanta owns Chicago's net and unless Khabibulin makes some sort of miraculous recovery, it would appear that Kent Simpson will be the backup.