by PuckStopsHere on 02/11/12 at 03:49 PM ET
Every season I pick a team that could be a much better Stanley Cup contender if they added a top goalie. My choice last year was the Tampa Bay Lightning. It proved to be a pretty good selection as they added Dwayne Roloson in a trade and then went to the semi-finals in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Tampa has not maintained that level of play as Roloson has struggled this season. Given his age (42) it is likely a final age related decline that will end his career. While Tampa Bay again needs a goalie, I think there is a better candidate for a team that would significantly improve their Stanley Cup chances by adding a goalie. They are the Chicago Blackhawks.
Chicago is the probable playoff team with the worst goaltending this season. Corey Crawford has been their starting goalie and he is posting a .898 saves percentage and a 2.99 GAA. Ray Emery, their backup, has a .901 saves percentage and a 2.80 GAA. Neither has been very good.
Crawford is a second year NHLer who was forced into NHL service when salary cap problems forced the Hawks to part with both of their goalies from their 2010 Stanley Cup run. Crawford had a solid season in his rookie year, but could not keep it up into a second season.
Ray Emery is a journeyman goalie who has done an admirable job of making a comeback on a hip injury that will likely end his career. He is a backup goalie at best at this point in his career.
One wonders where Chicago would be if they still had their 2010 goaltending. Antti Niemi is having a solid season in San Jose and would be a goaltending solution. Cristobal Huet has been a strong goalie in the Swiss League. Due to differences in competition level, it is hard to guess how he would be doing in the NHL, but he may also be a goaltending improvement.
Chicago is currently holding sixth seed in the West Conference. They should be a playoff team. They have allowed more goals than any other West Conference team except Columbus. They have scored more goals than they have allowed because of a top offence. If they could reduce their goals against, they would be as good as any other team. They would go from a team with a more outside shot at the Stanley Cup to a top contender.
The question is which goalie is available. Trade rumors suggest Cory Schneider of Vancouver and Jonathan Bernier of Los Angeles might be available. Ryan Miller of Buffalo has also been suggested as being available. I am not one to put too much credence into unfounded trade rumors. It is quite likely that none of these goalies will move before the trade deadline. They are the top candidates at this point if Chicago is to find a goalie to solve their goaltending problems. The Blackhawks will try to find a goalie before the trade deadline. The question is whether or not anyone is willing to move a goalie to fill their need. If they find that goalie, Chicago could be a strong Stanley Cup contender. As it is they have an outside chance at winning the cup.
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