GOALTENDING: A Saga

The other night, the Hawks saw the Colorado Avalanche put 6 pucks past their goaltenders. If you read Twitter during the game, you'd think there were two separate games going on.

We have now reached the point where when Marty Turco gives up a goal, it's because he sucks. When Corey Crawford gives up a goal, it's because the defense let him down.

Unfortunately, it's not quite that simple.

I'm offering full disclosure here - I'm not a particular fan of either Turco or Crawford. Last season, when people were screaming for the Hawks to pick up either Turco or Dwayne Roloson at the trade deadline, I thought both were a bad idea, as neither one was appreciably any better than Cristobal Huet. Nothing has happened to dissuade me from this notion.

Now then. Does Turco suck? No. He's not Georges Vezina reincarnated, but he's not Vesa Toskala either. He is, at best, a solid veteran goalie.

By the same token, there are times when Corey Crawford actually looks pretty damn good, and other times, not so much. You can pretty much draw the line between the two at how much time he spends on his skates. When he starts dropping too early, he's screwed.

So why has Turco been sitting and Crawford playing? QStache believes in playing the "hot hand", regardless of how long that hand stays hot. The problem is, goalies aren't like skaters. I'm not sure QStache appreciates that or not.

When he starts Turco once every 3 weeks, he's going to show rust. Goalies get into a rhythm, and need repetition to stay sharp. There was one short period last season where Huet and Antti Niemi alternated starts, and were actually trading shutouts. It was a beautiful thing. This season, it was Turco's net, and now it's Crawford. That's fine with me, whatever wins. But Turco needs more in-game work than he's getting.

That in itself is easy enough to say. The Hawks themselves need to take part in this. The other night, when Turco was obviously rusty in the early going, the Hawks defensemen (particularly Duncan Keith at that point) were hanging Turco out to dry. A cold goalie needs to get some relatively easy saves in order to get into a rhythm. Turco never had a chance to find that rhythm. As a result, the Hawks managed to get 5 goals past the GREAT CRAIG ANDERSON (caps for sarcasm) and still come away with nary a point to show for it.



And here's the saga: This could be two years in a row where the goaltending situation has gone from workable to unworkable quickly. Last season, the backchecking of the forwards was streets ahead of where it is this year. So, of course, every meatball in Chicago will blame the misused goalie. They will scour the lists of pending free agents and clamor for this retread or that one. Of course, the fun & exciting plot twist is that one of those pending FAs happens to be Niemi. Oh joy.

It's only a matter of time before the hue and cry for the reacquisition of Niemi starts. There will be lust for other erstwhile Hawks, but since we're talking goaltending at the moment, we'll stick with Niemi. He's certainly an option worth exploring for the 2011-12 season, but there's no way San Jose would send a goalie to Chicago. So knock it off.

Crawford wll probably get the net tonight, and he'll need to get it on Friday - there's no part of sending a cold goalie against Detroit that makes sense - and we're back to where we were on Monday with Turco.

At some point, he needs to get in there. You can't win in the NHL riding one goalie. QStache needs to get more of a tandem rotation going, especially if Turco gets warmed back up to where he's solid, but not spectacular. Which is all you can expect from Marty Turco anyway.

That being said, this season is the bizarro version of last year. Last year, the entire team took their defensive responsibilities seriously to the point where it didn't really matter who was in net, since they'd see so few shots per game. The shots the goalie did see were of low quality.

This season, the team defense has been so poor that it wouldn't matter if Glenn Hall were in there.

 

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  • 12/15/2010 6:30 PM Christopher wrote:
    Well said. The forwards & D really need to start playing defense or it will be a short season, as the puck possesion game is not in the cards this year.

    Excellent use of streets ahead. Community is a really good show.
    Reply to this

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