Is Anton Forsberg losing his backup spot to Jeff Glass?
And more importantly: does he deserve to lose it?
Word from the morning skate before on Friday indicated that Jeff Glass will get his fourth straight start — the first four NHL starts of his career — when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Vegas Golden Knights at the United Center on Friday night.
Coach Joel Quenneville met the media after practice and was asked about the state of the Blackhawks’ backup goaltender position: does it belong to Glass or Anton Forsberg? In typical Q fashion, he was non-commital, as Daily Herald reported John Dietz indicated on Twitter:
Q said Crawford is still out indefinitely.— John Dietz (@johndietzdh) January 5, 2018
But when he returns, is Jeff Glass the backup?
"Right now, in the position we’re in, we have to win the next game and that’s how we look at the goaltending situation."
So there you go -- no guidance there either.
But that didn’t stop Quenneville from throwing a few more bouquets in Glass’ direction later in the interview.
Q on Glass: "He’s just one of those players that, especially for a goalie, is really enthusiastic to do whatever he can to help the team. ... He's just a likeable teammate. When he came up we said, ‘Hey, you’re not just here. Let’s see what happens.’"— John Dietz (@johndietzdh) January 5, 2018
So, the answer to the question asked by this article’s headline seems to be ... maybe? The only definitive answer to this question will come whenever Corey Crawford returns from his injury, and one of the two goalies is sent to the Rockford Ice Hogs.
The last game that Forsberg played was a Dec. 28 loss to the Vancouver Canucks, and Quenneville’s postgame report on Forsberg wasn’t a great one.
Q on Forsberg: "He was OK. I don't think we gave him enough support offensively."— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) December 29, 2017
Does he consider Glass tomorrow? "We'll see."
Calling a player “OK” is about as damning as Quenneville gets in the public eye, and Forsberg hasn’t played since. But Quenneville often lamented the lack of “run support” that the Hawks provided Forsberg in his starts. Chicago has lost the last five games that Glass started, but they haven’t scored more than two goals in any of those games.
Still, the overall numbers are in Glass’ favor. Admittedly in a smaller sample size, Glass has a 2.98 goals-against average and .917 save percentage. Forsberg’s numbers are 3.33 and .902, respectively. But the biggest discrepancy between the two has been during 5-on-5 play, when Glass is sporting a .976 save percentage, while Forsberg’s is at .906 (Crawford is at .934, FWIW). Again, sample sizes must be considered here, with Forsberg playing 405 minutes at even strength and Glass playing just 154. But it’s not difficult to see why Quenneville is riding the relatively hot hand of Glass.
Full disclosure: when I sat down to write this article, I expected to make the argument that Forsberg hadn’t done anything to lose his job, and that Glass was simply the benefactor of improved play by the skaters in front of the goalie. But the discrepancy in the statistics has me reconsidering my original hypothesis. I still think Glass’ rebound control leaves a lot to be desired. I still think he finds himself out of position too often and ends up sliding wildly all over his crease. While Forsberg may not have done enough to lose the job, though, he also didn’t play so well that Quenneville had to leave him in the lineup. And with the Blackhawks playing all-around better on Wednesday night against the New York Rangers, there was nothing in Forsberg’s recent play that warrants him getting the nod over Glass for Friday night’s game.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.