The other day, Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times spoke with Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville, who admitted that he won’t be carrying three goalies this season. With veteran Cam Ward now in the fold as backup, Lazerus took that to mean that young Anton Forsberg could be the odd man out, likely to be placed on waivers prior to the start of the season. Now, after speaking to the starting goaltender himself, Corey Crawford, Lazerus could be changing his tune. Although he was limited to only 28 appearances last season due to injury, Chicago has been confident that Crawford would be fully ready to begin the 2018-19 season. Not so fast says Crawford; the two-time Jennings Trophy winner admits that he is still not back to 100%.
Since before the disappointing 2017-18 campaign even came to an end, the Blackhawks have been adamant that Crawford would be back for training camp and the start of the upcoming season. Despite the fact that Crawford did not see any action after December as his recovery dragged on through the second half of the year, the team had all but assured the fans that he would be the Opening Night starter. To that promise, Crawford told the press this weekend:
“That’s hard to say right now, but it’s very possible. We’ve come a long way in the last couple months, and there’s a really good chance that could happen… (I am) feeling pretty good right now, [but] I am not at 100 percent yet… Treatments are going well, and we’re making small steps. And I’m getting a little better, so it’s a process,” he said. “It’s been a process since I left in December. It hasn’t been easy.”
Clearly, Crawford is heading in the right direction, but his own apprehension – as well as the strong emotions Lazerus noted – indicate that this injury saga may not be over just yet. Crawford’s injury has never been specified by the team, but whatever it is has taken a lot of work to get through. Crawford has no doubt that he will back to his old self at some point, but he just isn’t sure when that will be.
The Blackhawks desperately need Crawford to be back at his elite level as soon as possible and in shape to avoid further injury. Much of their struggle last season came from incompetent goaltending after Crawford, who began the year with a stellar .929 save percentage and 2.27 GAA, went down. Forsberg, Jean-Francois Berube, and Jeff Glass all struggled immensely in his absence, although Forsberg was the best of the three. Ward is a step up as backup and he and Forsberg could carry the torch for a short period, but a healthy Crawford is the only way that Chicago gets back to the postseason this year. That makes his news all the more troublesome for Blackhawks fans.