And the news wasn’t good.
News broke Wednesday morning that Corey Crawford was placed on injured reserve, resulting in call-ups for Jeff Glass as well as David Kampf. After the aforementioned practice on Wednesday, we got our first updates on Crawford’s injury, courtesy of Sun-Times reporter Mark Lazerus.
Joel Quenneville on Corey Crawford: "I’m going to say indefinite now until we get him on the ice and know more."— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) December 28, 2017
It’s not the worst-case scenario, but you can see it from there. It’s one thing to know that Crawford is going to be out for a week or two. But the word “indefinite” lends itself to an air of uncertainty that is incredibly uncomfortable for Blackhawks fans, especially considering how much they’ve relied on Crawford in recent seasons. The best way to “see” just how much Crawford has meant to this team is by checking out his league ranking for goals saved above average (explained in greater detail here).
(Photo courtesy of Sean Tierney, aka @ChartingHockey)
He’s second in the league in that stat, just a hair behind Columbus Blue Jackets’ goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. Those numbers back up what Blackhawks fans have seen for the past few seasons: Crawford has been relied on heavily by his team, and he’s always delivered. While Anton Forsberg has had his good moments in Chicago, it’s unrealistic to expect him to maintain that level of play in Crawford’s absence.
So where do the Blackhawks go from here?
The focus now shifts from the man in net to the five skaters in front of him. More specifically, it comes down to the other star players on this team. I don’t think Patrick Kane needs to be pointed at here, because he’s largely been one of the team’s best players this season. But there are plenty more players who need to pick up the slack, (something Quenneville also mentioned in Lazerus’ story from today). Now would be a great time for Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad to rekindle the magic they had during their first pairing together. Ryan Hartman and Richard Panik provided excellent complementary scoring in 2016-17, but haven’t replicated that this season. Patrick Sharp needs to add to his three-goal total thus far. On the back end, it’s on players like Connor Murphy and Duncan Keith to continue their solid play, while Jan Rutta, Gustav Forsling, and Brent Seabrook could all chip in with improved performances in the immediate future. The season is not lost with Crawford’s injury, but that may not be the case by the time Crawford returns from injury. It’s getting painfully close to make-or-break time.