CHICAGO – One of the reasons the Blackhawks were able to get enough points at the end of the regular season was the play of their top goaltender.
So the fact that Corey Crawford has been deemed “unfit to play” during the first week of training camp is a problem for the team that will bring plenty of attention. Understandably, head coach Jeremy Colliton and some of the players have been fielding questions on him after most of the practices, even though there hasn’t been much to say.
But on Tuesday, there was finally some optimism on the goaltender, and it came from general manager Stan Bowman.
“We are hopeful on that,” said Bowman when asked about the possibility of Crawford returning to the team in time to join them in Edmonton for the NHL Tournament. “We hope to give you a better idea on that closer to the weekend, but that’s something that we’re still shooting for, but I don’t have any definitive comments right now.
“But we’re still hoping that’s the case.”
It certainly wouldn’t hurt the Blackhawks’ chances against the Oilers starting on August 1st. In the team’s final six regular season games, Crawford only allowed more than two goals once, sporting a 4-2 record.
While at the time it seemed a bit late to get the Blackhawks to the playoffs, those points ended up getting the group to 12th in the Western Conference, which kept their season going after the pandemic.
Bowman, Colliton, and the Blackhawks will have to make that decision by Sunday, when the team leaves for Edmonton to begin training. They can have 31 players on the roster and that group is the pool that the Blackhawks will have for the duration of the tournament.
Whether Crawford is ready to go or not before then is very much in the air, including his potential to start Game 1 of the Oilers series in 11 days.
“At this point, nothing has been ruled out,” said Bowman when asked specifically if Crawford could be in net for the series opener. “We’ve still got a fair amount of time before August 1st and the first game. We’re not thinking that far ahead right now, we’re really kinda here day-to-day.”
That means watching Collin Delia, Kevin Lankinen, Malcolm Subban, and Matt Tomkins compete in net at Fifth Third Arena. Colliton said he’s not sure when the last time Crawford was on the ice and how much time he’d need to get into game shape.
“Whenever we get him back, if we get him back, it’s our job to get him ready as quickly as we can,” said Colliton.
But saying there’s a chance certainly is some good news if the Blackhawks hope for a long stay in Edmonton.