Crawford exits Blackhawks’ 6-2 win early with injury
BY MARK LAZERUS Staff reporter December 8, 2013 8:44PM
Updated: December 8, 2013 9:56PM
So far this season, the Blackhawks have had little more than first-world problems. Sure, the penalty kill has been, in Joel Quenneville’s words, “a disaster.” The schedule has been brutal of late, and has taken its toll. And yes, they’ve had a few injuries.
That said, they’re still leading the entire NHL in points.
But the sight of goaltender Corey Crawford being helped off the ice by Brent Seabrook and athletic trainer Mike Gapski surely sent a cold chill down the Hawks’ spines, and at the very least tempered the relief of Sunday night’s 6-2 rout of the Florida Panthers, a win that snapped a three-game losing streak.
A source said it’s a groin injury for Crawford, though the severity isn’t yet known. He was hurt making a pad save with 6:15 left in the first period. He tried to stand up but was unable to do so, appearing to favor his left leg.
“I don’t think it’s too serious,” Quenneville said after the game. “But when it’s a goalie, it’s a little more serious than other players, because of how important he is to our team.”
Antti Raanta came in and made 29 saves on 31 shots.
With their top goalie out, the Hawks’ top skaters did the heavy lifting. Patrick Sharp had a goal and two assists, Patrick Kane had three assists, Marian Hossa, Brandon Saad and Brent Seabrook each had a goal and an assist, and Jonathan Toews had two assists.
The Hawks scored three power-play goals and killed off all five power plays against the Panthers, the third-worst team in the league.
Sharp said the Hawks didn’t lose focus after Crawford went down.
“You try not to think about it; injuries are part of the game,” he said. “It’s not often you see the goalie leave the game, so you know it’s got to be something serious. [But] you’re not going to waste any energy. We all care about Crow, no question. But in the middle of the game, we’ve got to focus on our jobs.”
That’s what Raanta had to do, too. It was the rookie’s fifth career appearance, and his second in relief — he made his NHL debut when Crawford was pulled in the first period at Colorado last month.
Quenneville said the Hawks won’t know how long Crawford will be out until Monday — and the Hawks surely will at least sniff around for a goalie through either free agency or a trade — but Raanta said he’s ready to take the reins if need be.
He admitted he has some work to do, particularly with his puck-handling — his giveaway led directly to Marcel Goc’s second-period goal that cut the Hawks’ lead to 3-2 — but the Hawks expressed confidence in him.
“That’s the job I came here to do,” he said. “If the coaches [want me] going to the net, I’m going to the net. I’ll try to be as good as possible.”
The Hawks got another scare in the third period when former Hawks forward Jimmy Hayes plowed over Raanta, sending his mask flying. He was fine, but it briefly sent the Hawks “scrambling,” according to Sharp, to figure out who might play goalie. Sharp joked that he’d be “the last guy to go in there; don’t want to mess up my stats,” but said Shaw quickly volunteered.
It’s the fourth time since the start of last season that the Hawks’ starting goalie was knocked out of the game with an injury. There doesn’t appear to be a contingency plan in place, and Rockford’s Kent Simpson surely couldn’t have made the drive down a snow-covered I-90 in time to get to the United Center.
“Hopefully, you’ve never got to go there,” Quenneville said. “There’d be some volunteers, for sure. Probably a lot of guys would try to jump in there . It probably would be fun. A little bit too much fun for me.”