Blackhawks

No controversy, Blackhawks have goalie luxury

620908.png

No controversy, Blackhawks have goalie luxury

As Ray Emery began his successful stint in the net about two weeks ago when the inevitable question was posted to coach Joel Quenneville: was this shaping up to be another goalie controversy?

He was having none of it.

We like the situation where both guys are playing well and were comfortable with the decision of whos playing in net every given night, he said.

Quenneville just may be getting that.

Emery was stellar in his five-game starting stretch, leading the Blackhawks to a plethora of points. And Corey Crawford, who returned to the net Wednesday night, looked like the practice had paid off.

Having two goalies playing well? Thats not a controversy folks, thats a pretty damn nice setup.

Now its understandable why the conversation came about earlier this month. After all, the Blackhawks have been here before: Guy named No. 1 goalie. No. 1 goalie doesnt look so hot. No. 2 goalie usurps No. 1 goalie, becomes new No. 1 goalie.

But this isnt the past few seasons. Its definitely not last season. Marty Turco entered Chicago having some brilliant seasons with the Dallas Stars, but his last season or two in Dallas werent so glowing. And his game continued to dissipate in his one and only season with Chicago. So there was Crawford: young and ready to take over.

Crawford is still the No. 1 guy and, if the Blackhawks go on a playoff run, it will be with Crawford between the pipes. Emery said it best recently:

You dont necessarily want your guy playing 65, 70 games a year. If Crows fresher come playoff time its better for the team. Maybe thats what my contribution can be to a successful playoff team is having a fresh goalie or a guy who has had some rest throughout the year.

And Emerys contribution this month should be lauded. He was not the shaky goaltender we saw vying for the backup job in September. Emery was big as Quenneville likes to say and reliable in his starts. There was no pressure to rush Crawford back.

Crawford looked more Crawford-like on Wednesday, and should ride that confidence into the post-Christmas schedule. Emery has the same feeling in his game, as evidence by his two-week stint.

The Blackhawks may just have a great two-goaltender tandem on their hands. Quenneville will take it.

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

usatsi_9256612.jpg
USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Apparently time doesn’t heal all wounds. 

Nearly a year and a half since being traded to the Coyotes, Niklas Hjalmarsson will return to the United Center ice on Thursday playing for the visiting team.  

“It’s going to be strange coming in as the away team and being in the other locker room,” said Hjalmarsson on Wednesday. “I bet it’s going to be a lot of emotions and mixed feelings.” 

This is also the first time Hjalmarsson has been back to the city of Chicago since he was traded, a city he called his “second home.” A home where he spent parts of 10 seasons, and never really planned on leaving.

“I wasn’t happy, to be honest with you,” said Hjalmarsson of the trade to Arizona. “I was shocked. It took me a couple days to actually realize I wasn’t going to play for the Hawks anymore.”

Including the playoffs, Hjalmarsson played 751 games in the Indian head sweater. Despite that and the team’s three Stanley Cup victories, the Blackhawks shipped him off to Arizona for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin in June of 2017.

“You kind of let it go after a while,” he said. “Now I’m just hoping all the success for the guys over here too.”

Hjalmarsson was known for his toughness, repeatedly blocking shot after shot, giving up his body, while never missing a shift. He credits his long-time teammates — Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — for a lot of his success and identity on the blue line.

“I couldn’t have had better role models coming into a team,” he said. “I’m very thankful to have played on the same team as those guys and created a lot of success together. We’re always going to be connected with the Cups that we’ve had.”

The third championship won by that defense-trio was on United Center ice against the Lightning in 2015, but that isn’t the memory that stands out most for Hjalmarsson.

“The first Cup is always going to be pretty special,” said the 31-year old. “Even just going to the conference final (in 2009), even when we lost against Detroit that year, the year before was great memories too. The first time for me going into the playoffs and playing deep.”

The tables have turned now for both Hjalmarsson and the Blackhawks. 

The Coyotes have yet to score an even-strength goal this season, while the Blackhawks have claimed eight of a possible 10 points thus far through five games and expect to have their starting goaltender back between the pipes. 

But you won’t hear any ill-will from Hjalmarsson, he’s still rooting for the Hawks.

“I always think that Chicago deserves to have a team in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s not that I wish them not to do well. It’s the total opposite. I want them to have continued success.”