When Corey Crawford went down with an injury Sunday night against the Panthers, the Blackhawks already held a 2-0 lead and were in complete control of the game. Still, the United Center went silent as Crawford was helped of the ice. While Antti Raanta has been an upgrade over Nikolai Khabibulin, he is still a relatively unknown product. Here are three pro’s/con’s of the Crawford injury.
1.) Pro – Antti Raanta
When Raanta signed with the Hawks this past summer, many scouts around the league were saying the Hawks got the next Antti Niemi. In the few games he has played, Raanta has had his ups and downs, but overall appears to be a much better alternative to Nikolai Khabibulin. He has not gotten much exposure in the NHL and this can be a good thing as teams have yet to figure out his weaknesses and force Raanta to adapt. He has played his game so far and done a tremendous job with rebound control leaving the Hawks a little less worried with him in net as they may have been when he first came up.
1.) Con – Antti Raanta
Corey Crawford’s initial diagnosis has him out at least 2-3 weeks. While the above reasons will all benefit Raanta, there are equal amount of reasons why this time may be a burden on his development. He is 24 years old and this is his first exposure to the North American game. The ice is more wide open in Finland and has a much different flow to a game than in the NHL. The NHL’s tighter rinks and faster pace are elements that some European players simply cannot adapt to. Outside of a handful of games in Rockford, this is Raanta’s first experience playing in North America. There is a chance Raanta’s confidence being shattered if he falters. Young goaltenders in particular can have a tough time recovering from their first rough stretch in the league and it will be telling to see how Raanta responds to a tough outing.
2.) Pro – Blackhawks Defense
The Blackhawks defense is the foundation of their game. With Crawford out, it forces the Hawks defense to play tighter as they do not have much experience playing with Raanta. At times this season, Hawks defensemen have played lackadaisically in their own zone and in turn has allowed goals that could have been prevented. Not going so far to say that the Hawks slack off with Crawford in goal, but there is a different mentality when you have a goalie you’ve played over 200 games with and one just starting out in the league.
2.) Con – No Reliable Backup
At least when Raanta was brought up, he came with professional hockey experience. The backup for Raanta now? Kent Simpson. Simpson is a young guy who is having in his first year as a professional hockey player. The 21 year old Simpson was drafted in the second round of the 2010 draft. While there is potential in Simpson for the future, now is not the time to have him up in the big show for a team that is trying to win it’s second Stanley Cup in a row. If Raanta falters, the Hawks have no one to turn to now that inspires much confidence.
3.) Pro – Hawks Are Scoring At Will
As I write this, the Hawks finished off a 7-2 drubbing of the Flyers. With 19 goals over their past three games the Hawks offense is on fire. This is obviously an unsustainable rate for the rest of the season, but the entire year the Hawks have seemingly been able to score at will. With the top ranking offense in the league, the Hawks have the offensive prowess to overcome most defensive and goaltending deficiencies.
3.) Con – Consistency
Can the Blackhawks maintain a consistent level of offense to offset Crawford’s injury should Raanta falter? It’s a tough question, but so far Raanta has proven perfectly capable of handling himself and keeping the Hawks in the game. I want to see how he reacts once the Hawks stop putting up 6,7 goals a game and is in much more tightly contested affairs.