When it comes to record over the past 10 games, only the Vancouver Canucks and Carolina Hurricanes have fared worse than the Blackhawks, and things aren’t looking up for Chicago. Not only is Duncan Keith likely on the verge of being handed a lengthy suspension, but reports are that goaltender Corey Crawford is still listed as day-to-day.
The Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus reported Tuesday that a source has indicated Crawford, 31, is dealing with a head injury, and “possibly something similar to the vertigo symptoms that Bryan Bickell was dealing with last spring.” Bickell's ailment began around the Stanley Cup final last season, and he told CSN Chicago's Tracey Myers symptoms were still popping up in September.
Lazerus added that when asked about Crawford’s status, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville couldn’t confirm Crawford would be back in time for the post-season.
“We think he’s going to be ready (for the playoffs), we think he’s close,” Quenneville said prior to the weekend’s games. “We still don’t see him on the ice, so I can’t answer that certainly.”
Concerns have arisen from the fact that Crawford, who hasn’t played since a loss to the Kings on March 14, has yet to return to the ice. Nothing has been confirmed, but according to Lazerus, Crawford is unlikely to join the Blackhawks on their upcoming road trip to Winnipeg.
Scott Darling, 27, has taken over the starting job for the Blackhawks with Crawford on the shelf, and Quenneville has made a point of running with the second-year netminder during the home stretch of the season. Aside from the final two periods of a loss to the Dallas Stars, Darling has played every minute for the Blackhawks, including both halves of a back-to-back against Calgary and Vancouver this past weekend.
During the 2015 post-season, Darling was a crucial part of Chicago’s first-round series victory over the Nashville Predators, but relying on him to carry the load in the playoffs is a risky proposition, especially in a season where the Blackhawks have had the least favorable advanced statistics under Quenneville. Crawford’s play through the Blackhawks’ struggles has arguably made him the team’s MVP this season, even if winger Patrick Kane is arguably the frontrunner for the Hart Trophy this season.
Crawford’s 2.32 goals-against average and .926 save percentage put him among the best netminders in the league this season, while his seven shutouts top the league and his 35 wins rank fourth.
During the 2013 playoffs, Crawford won all 16 games for the Blackhawks in the post-season and posted a 1.84 GAA and .932 SP, and few would have been surprised had he been named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP. The honor instead went to Patrick Kane. Over the past three playoffs, Crawford has won no fewer than 11 playoff games, and his return to the lineup will likely be a necessity should the Blackhawks wish to go deep in the post-season once again.