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Best to Fade the Blackhawks Until Corey Crawford Returns from Injury


The Chicago Blackhawks weren’t playing to expectations even with goalie Corey Crawford having one of his best seasons. Now things could go really downhill with Crawford on IR.

The Chicago Blackhawks have to be considered the team of the decade thus far because they have won three Stanley Cups compared to a pair by the Pittsburgh Penguins -- who did repeat, something Chicago never did – and Los Angeles Kings.

However, it appears all those significant player losses over the years by the Hawks due to the salary cap have finally caught up to the organization as it would miss the playoffs as things stand. in 2017-18. Frankly, the championship window probably slammed shut last spring when the Blackhawks became the first No. 1 seed in Stanley Cup playoff history to be swept by a No. 8. That was no fluke, either, as the Nashville Predators were simply, bigger, faster and better.

Currently on Bovada NHL futures, the Hawks are +900 to win the Western Conference and +1600 to win the Cup. Sill relatively short odds. Can’t say I recommend either wager unless Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman pulls off a major trade. The Hawks could use a power-play stud, especially on the blueline, as they rank just 29th with the man advantage.

Chicago’s best player this year hasn’t been former Hart Trophy winner Patrick Kane – captain Jonathan Toews is a shell of his former self and might be the league’s most overpaid guy – but goaltender Corey Crawford, and now he’s back on injured reserve. Until Crawford is back, the wise NHL bet on any Hawks game is against them.

Crawford is having perhaps his best season with a 16-9-2 record, 2.27 goals-against average (fourth in NHL), .929 save percentage (third) and two shutouts. Something clearly was bothering him, however, as in his past two starts, both lopsided losses, Crawford allowed seven goals on just 29 shots. The 32-year-old was pulled from his last one against New Jersey and put on injured reserve Dec. 27.

This is the NHL, so teams won’t say exactly what’s bothering Crawford. The soonest he could return is Jan. 3 at the New York Rangers. He missed three games earlier in December with a lower-body injury and Chicago lost them all.

Crawford had one of the NHL’s best backups last year in Scott Darling, but he was traded to Carolina this past offseason because the Hawks couldn’t afford to re-sign him. The new backup is Anton Forsberg, who was part of the Blue Jackets trade in the offseason that returned Brandon Saad to Chicago. Forsberg is a clear step down with a 1-4-3 record, 3.13 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage as of this writing. Forsberg’s current No. 2 is career minor-league journeyman Jeff Glass, who was recalled from the AHL. He’s just 61-82-4 in 175 career AHL games and has never played in the NHL. Not good.

Every game Crawford misses will make it tougher for Chicago to make the playoffs. Remember, there’s an extra Western Conference team this season, and that club, expansion Vegas, has been shockingly good and is battling for the Pacific Division lead. So that’s one fewer postseason spot available than expected.

Matthew Jordan

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