Goalie controversy? Hawks don't buy it
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It's only outside the Blackhawks' dressing room that a goaltending controversy is being manufactured.
Inside the room, the Hawks believe they have what 29 other teams wish they did: two goalies perfectly capable of being the starter in the playoffs in Corey Crawford and Ray Emery.
"There's no controversy at all," said Crawford, who gets the net back on Friday against Detroit, snapping Emery's streak of three straight starts. "We're winning hockey game and we're both playing well. I see it as a positive thing.
"That's exactly what you want, both goalies playing well. You don't want your coach to be afraid to put somebody in. I look at it as a good thing for us going into playoffs.
"To be honest, we don't really care what anybody else outside the room thinks," Crawford said. "It's in here that counts, and everyone is confident in here."
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville has proved that he has an equal amount of confidence in both his goalies. While Crawford remains the likely playoff starter based on a variety of factors, Quenneville doesn't have to make that decision until the day before Game 1 of the postseason.
"Both goalies have been great all year long so we'll be making decisions from strength," Quenneville said. "In the past that decision has usually been made for you, but this year both guys will definitely get strong consideration based on performance. I think we're in a position right now to see how it goes without showing our hand. If both guys continue to do it we'll be in a nice situation."
Quenneville calls it a healthy competition between the goalies.
"They're both supportive and respect one another," Quenneville said. "Both goalies want to play, but they want to see our team do well too. It's a good push and a healthy push from each other and as a team we like the way they're delivering.
"We'll see how it all plays out."
Crawford admits he has learned a lot from the veteran Emery.
"We push each other to be at our best and it's gone well for us so far," Crawford said. "He's rubbed off on me a little in terms of his preparation. I think that was one of the key parts of my game I needed to improve, not just a little but by a fair amount.
"That's what got me in trouble sometimes, my preparation. He's so calm out there during games. Nothing has changed this year. We've both been real focused and have just traded off performances."
Jonathan Toews sees it as the Hawks having two No. 1 goalies.
"If it's Corey playing two or three games in a row or whether it's Ray-Ray's turn, we feel a lot of confidence in either guy," Toews said. "It's nice to see them both stepping up to the plate and being as competitive as they are. I think they're making each other better by being on their game every single time they get the chance to play.
"It makes our team better. Every time you have a solid goaltender out there it helps you just go out there and make plays and not be afraid to make those mistakes, especially in the defensive zone. We've been great coming out of our zone, and I think a big part of that is the confidence we have in our goaltenders."
As for a starter for the playoffs, Toews is glad he doesn't have to make that decision.
"They both want to win and do whatever it takes to help this team win," Toews said. "If it's not playing every single game, they're willing to do it. They're both great team guys and they've showed that the last two years playing alongside each other.
"Whatever the case may be, I think as players we understand that's the situation too — that if you're not scoring goals, if you're not hitting or doing what you're supposed to be doing, someone else might be stepping up and doing it. That's why hockey is a team game."
• Follow Tim's hockey reports on Twitter @TimSassone and check out his Between the Circles blog at dailyherald.com.
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