Blackhawks

Antti Raanta and Scott Darling paved the way, Is Anton Forsberg next?

Antti Raanta and Scott Darling paved the way, Is Anton Forsberg next?

You won’t find a lot regarding Anton Forsberg’s NHL playing experience, because there isn’t much there.

The goaltender the Blackhawks acquired as part of the Brandon Saad trade on Friday has just 10 NHL regular-season games to his credit and he admits, “the numbers aren’t great when I played.” Forsberg had a 4.02 goals-against average in those 10 games, which he played from 2014-17 with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

But little NHL experience isn’t necessarily a problem for a backup goalie, especially one recruited by the Blackhawks. Their last two backups, Antti Raanta and Scott Darling, had no experience entering their time in Chicago. Both did great here and are now getting opportunities elsewhere.

Now Forsberg hopes to be the latest backup goalie success story for the Blackhawks. Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said on Friday, a few hours after completing the deal with Columbus, that Forsberg, “has earned the right to be an NHL goalie.”

“We’re optimistic about Anton’s potential,” Bowman said on Friday. “We like his profile as a goalie. He’s a big guy, takes up a lot of net, has that mobility and makes good positional saves as well as athletic saves. A year ago, led his team to the Calder Cup championships, so he knows what it’s like to put a team on his back. It was the AHL, but he’s had a lot of success there.”

Forsberg has done well in the AHL, leading the Lake Erie (now Cleveland) Monsters to the 2016 Calder Cup title. In that postseason Forsberg had 10 appearances, going 9-0 with a 1.34 GAA and .949 save percentage. The 24-year-old said the entire season, from start to championship finish, was a learning experience.

[RELATED: Blackhawks Talk Podcast - What's next for Blackhawks as free agency looms?]

“It felt like the team, the whole time, grew. We had some tough parts during the season, too, but once we got everything together we started winning and gained confidence. Same for me. I had a tough start, grew during the season and got better and better,” Forsberg said. “Once I got the chance in the playoffs, I felt good about myself and learned with experience. It’s a different type of game in the playoffs. It’s tougher, faster and harder. Just the whole experience with the games and the atmosphere, it was a fun time.”

So let’s get back to the Blackhawks’ recent successful track record on backup goaltenders. Raanta had no experience playing in North America before the Blackhawks signed him entering the 2013-14 season. While he had his ups and downs on the road he was stellar at the United Center (in his career, he’s 15-0-3 with a .945 save percentage there). The Blackhawks took a gamble on Darling, who went from journeyman minor-league goaltender to Stanley Cup winner with them. Darling’s first NHL game didn’t come until he signed with the Blackhawks (October 2014); despite the lack of NHL experience, he and Corey Crawford formed a tremendous tandem.

Now the Blackhawks’ depth, especially at defense, was stronger during Raanta and Darling’s time here. But both had their share of goaltending victories and the lack of experience didn’t hurt either of them.

Forsberg didn’t have much of a chance to win the backup role while with the Blue Jackets. He’ll get that chance now that he’s in Chicago. Experience? No, there’s not much of it at this level. But the Blackhawks have done a good job lately in finding those guys who made the most of the NHL backup goalie opportunity once they did get it. Forsberg hopes to be the next to do that.

“I feel I put up some good things [in the AHL] and with the Calder Cup two years ago and I feel I gained a lot of experience,” Forsberg said. “I’m ready to take the next step.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Are Blackhawks doomed to miss playoffs without Crawford?

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Are Blackhawks doomed to miss playoffs without Crawford?

Jesse Rogers (ESPN Chicago), Patrick Finley (Chicago Sun-Times) and Dan McNeil join Chuck Garfien on the panel.

Corey Crawford is reportedly suffering vertigo-like symptoms and there’s a chance he might not return this season. Are the Blackhawks playoff chances gone if he doesn’t come back?

Plus, the guys talk Bears coaches, preview Conference Championship weekend and Jesse discusses if the Cubs are saving their money for next winter’s big free agent class.

Listen to the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

Why Corey Crawford situation is tricky for Blackhawks

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Why Corey Crawford situation is tricky for Blackhawks

The Blackhawks have been tight-lipped about Corey Crawford's status ever since he was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 27 with an upper-body injury, and it's fueled rampant speculation on social media about what's really going on. That came to an end on Tuesday when Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times reported that there's growing concern within the organization that its star goaltender could miss the remainder of the season with vertigo-like symptoms. (Blackhawks senior adviser Scotty Bowman went on Sportsnet 590 The Fan on Wednesday to clarify it's post-concussion syndrome).

And while there's at least some clarity surrounding Crawford's condition, it's opened up more questions about what the Blackhawks may do going forward.

On Monday we broke down the unfavorable playoff picture for the Blackhawks going into the bye week, which was a glaring concern in and of itself. Add in the possibility that Crawford could be sidelined for the rest of the campaign and those chances absolutely diminish.

So what course of action should the Blackhawks take ahead of the Feb. 26 trade deadline? That's where the tricky part comes in.

Because of the nature of Crawford's injury, the Blackhawks aren't at a point right now where they want to put him on long-term injured reserve because that would require him to miss a minimum of 10 games or 24 days, and they're still holding out hope that he could come back within that timeframe. The problem with it is that nobody really knows. It could be days, weeks or months, and putting a restriction on that doesn't make much sense in the middle of a playoff run even though it would open up significant cap space.

Which brings us to our next point. There are certainly some decent rental goaltenders (Robin Lehner, Petr Mrazek or Antti Raanta, to name a few) on the market if the Blackhawks choose to go that route, but that might not be the wisest thing to do.

Given their spot in the standings and the chances Crawford could return, why risk giving up future assets for a playoff run that may not happen? It would be different if the Blackhawks wanted to add some insurance for the stretch run and postseason, but there's no guarantee it'll happen.

If the Blackhawks did, however, want to go that route, they would need to act quickly because there's no point in waiting closer to the deadline. Every point is crucial from here on out.

Perhaps the best and most logical idea is to stand pat.

Let it ride with Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass and hope they can hold the fort down until a potential Crawford return. Let the young guys continue to grow. Maybe add a defenseman to patch up the back end, but don't empty the tank. There's no reason to. The Blackhawks are hoping to sign highly-touted prospect Dylan Sikura after his college season ends, which would serve as a deadline acquisition by itself.

It will be tempting for the Blackhawks to be aggressive at the trade deadline in the wake of Crawford's injury, and they're surely already having these discussions as they continue to explore the different avenues. But this might be a rare case where doing nothing is the right way to go.