Each day for the rest of the year, Second City Hockey will countdown the top 10 Blackhawks stories of 2018.
No injury was more significant to the Blackhawks in 2018 than the concussion and subsequent symptoms that afflicted No. 1 goaltender Corey Crawford for the first 10 months of 2018. And, in a cruel recurrence of events, 2018 is likely going to end the way it started: with Crawford on injured reserve due to a concussion.
It all started Dec. 23, 2017, when Crawford was pulled from a start against the Devils after allowing three goals on seven shots during a 4-1 loss. Four days later, Crawford was placed on injured reserve and, the next day, coach Joel Quenneville told the media that Crawford would be out for “a bit” with an “upper-body injury.”
What unfolded during the next 10 months had to be frustrating for Crawford, who made a few attempts to return to the ice but consistently suffered setbacks that left him on the shelf until October of the following season. It was also infuriating from a fan perspective, as the Blackhawks front office was notoriously tight-lipped during the entire saga, never providing clear details about what was afflicting Chicago’s star goalie.
Crawford missed the back half of the 2017-18 schedule and his health cast a pall over everything related to the Blackhawks throughout the offseason. It also led to a few moments of apparent miscommunication between Crawford and the front office. On June 21, general manager Stan Bowman said he expected Crawford to be ready for training camp. The next day, Quenneville offered similar thoughts.
But one month later, at the Blackhawks’ fan convention, Crawford said he “wasn’t 100 percent, yet.”
The disconnect continued into September, when Blackhawks president and CEO John McDonough said he was “confident” Crawford would be ready at the start of the team’s training camp. When training camp opened, however, Crawford told reporters that he was dealing with lingering concussion symptoms, but “really close” to returning.
Crawford opened the 2018-19 season on injured reserve but was activated two weeks later. He returned to the starting lineup Oct. 18, making 27 saves in a 4-1 loss to the Coyotes. Through 23 starts this season, Crawford has a 6-14-2 record with a 3.28 goals-against average and .902 save percentage, some of the worst numbers of his career.
Then, Dec. 16, Crawford was diagnosed with a concussion after his head hit the goalpost during a collision. Crawford went back on injured reserve the next day and the most recent update on Crawford came Dec. 23, when Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said Crawford was at the United Center for the team’s morning skate.
“As far as I know he’s still in the protocol. He is here, so that’s a positive,” Colliton told reporters.
And the saga continues ...