It sounds absurd to suggest there’s a goalie controversy when the starter hasn’t lost a game in regulation.
But absurd is the only way to describe the Blackhawks’ start to the 2013 season.
“It is kind of crazy so far,” admitted Patrick Sharp. “Every game, we seem to get just enough of whatever we need.”
The Hawks have had plenty of goaltending, but starter Corey Crawford is out with a concussion, and while he recovers Ray Emery records victories.
Is it unfair to even consider what might occur when Crawford returns? Of course, but no one said hockey is fair.
“It’s a problem if you’re a player in this league and you don’t want to play,” Emery said after the Hawks beat the Kings 3-2 to improve to 12-0-3. “I definitely want to play all the time.”
Now, Emery wasn’t starting anything here. He was merely answering my question and clarified his status as quickly as he’d kick back a shot from the point.
“There are certain roles to fill on a team, and my role is to fill in whenever they want me to fill in,” said Emery, who’s now 5-0-0 on the season. “Crow is the guy and my role is to back him up. That’s the way it is right now and my job is to help when needed.”
That is the way it is right now. Or, at least it was that way when Crawford got hurt and it will probably still be that way when Crawford returns. But Joel Quenneville is legendary for playing the hot hand — and Emery is hot.
“Goaltending is always the key in this league,” Quenneville said late Sunday afternoon, basking in the glow of yet another victory. “When you get great goaltending, it gives the team confidence, and that’s huge.”
Crawford’s ability is not in doubt, but occasionally his mental well-being is a question, and it’s not all that surprising that his only bad period of the season came in San Jose directly after Emery played the game of the year in Calgary, stealing 2 points for the Hawks.
Still, Crawford settled down and played a solid game after the first 10 minutes that night, and overall he has been nothing short of outstanding this season.
“Both our guys have done an excellent job so far,” Quenneville said. “We’re very happy with our goaltending. We’re very happy with our start.”
The start has been spectacular, the kind of start that has everyone outside the Hawks’ dressing room talking about the Stanley Cup again. Inside that room, you’ll hear nothing of the kind.
“I’m not a guy who focuses on things like streaks,” Emery said of the Hawks closing in on a record for most games without a regulation loss to start a season. “I like to focus on the little things.”
And it’s the little things that continue to win games for the Hawks. The biggest play of the game was a brief move of the hands that most of the Hawks — and the referees — missed.
With the game scoreless in the first, L.A. defenseman Keaton Ellerby nudged a wandering goaltender stick back to within the grasp of Kings netminder Jonathan Quick.
But before Quick could grab it, Hawks winger Brandon Bollig gently pushed it back behind the net. A moment later, with Quick helpless and out of position, Duncan Keith made a brilliant, cross-ice pass to Brent Seabrook for a one-timer into an empty net.
“I didn’t like the Seabrook goal, being that our goaltender should have been allowed to have his stick,” said Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter. “It got pushed away and it should have been a penalty.
“The shorter referee was standing right there by our bench. The other guy couldn’t see it, but the shorter one had the same view that I did and he should have made the call. We shoved his stick to him and they shoved it away. It shouldn’t be a goal.”
But like mostly everything else so far in 2013, it went the Hawks’ way and it turned out to have a huge impact on the game after the Kings’ Mike Richards scored 2 third-period, power-play goals.
“There’s always stuff we can work on,” said captain Jonathan Toews, who had a power-play goal and an assist. “But we’re paying attention to the little things, and that’s a good thing.”
It’s pretty much all good right now for the Hawks, and there’s nothing bad about having two goaltenders playing well.
If that’s a goalie controversy, it’s a great one.
ŸHear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.