There are two schools of thought as they relate to Chicago Blackhawks netminder Corey Crawford. Some believe he's every bit the goaltender that has already led the club to a Stanley Cup title, and has the chops to do it again. Others believe he's a burden on the salary cap and a player that could be replaced. Regardless of where you land, one would have to admit that his performance thus far was worthy of at least consideration of the latter. Prior to his injury, foolish as it may be, Crawford was absolutely lights out.
Which is why it's easy to understand the concern that may have existed when it was announced that Crawford would be out a minimum of two to three weeks with his lower body injury suffered at a concert. With the Blackhawks finally starting to heat up, could they possibly sustain the momentum with a rusty Antti Raanta and a solid, yet inexperienced, Scott Darling? To this point, it sure looks like it.
Although the sample size is small, considering that Crawford started 18 of 27 games to this point, and Raanta/Darling is anything but a long term solution, only one of the three Hawks' goaltenders to this point has a goals against average over two. That would be Antti Raanta, whose figure resides at just 2.02. He's allowed just 10 goals across his five starts this season, posting a .942 save percentage. He hasn't looked outright dominant at this point, but he's been steady enough and lucky enough to post some solid numbers.
On the other hand, you have Darling. Darling has already become a fan favorite in Chicago, due to not only his status as a local product, but the fact that he's a large presence between the pipes and has demonstrated excellent positioning to this point. He's been outstanding in his minuscule time this year (just four starts), with a GAA of just 1.74 and a .943 save percentage. He's allowed only seven across four outings.
What this has certainly done has brought peace of mind to Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff. There were certainly some questions about the Blackhawks' goaltending situation beyond Crawford coming into the season. To this point, they have answered those questions. It certainly helps that the Blackhawks routinely dominate in the Corsi department and don't surrender a lot of shots. They currently rank 10th in the league in shots against per game, allowing less than 29 per contest.
Again, this isn't something that should be seen as any sort of long term solution, though there are those that would use it as firepower to make a TRADE CRAWFORD argument. At the end of the day, Corey Crawford is still the goaltender that will take the Hawks to where they ultimately would like to be at season's end. But while he's out, Antti Raanta and Scott Darling are doing an absolutely wonderful job holding down the fort in his absence.
Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.