Goaltender Corey Crawford has led the Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup championship, but when Chicago attempts to eliminate Nashville on Thursday, he won’t be playing between the pipes. Rookie Scott Darling has been a big part of the first round series and will get another start in Game 5.
It’s an impressive, yet oddly common story this season. If you look at the GAA leaders so far in the 2015 postseason, you won’t see Carey Price or Henrik Lundqvist listed in the top-three. Instead it’s Darling, Devan Dubnyk, and Jake Allen. Three netminders who weren’t in starting roles when the campaign began. Then there’s Petr Mrazek, who shutout the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday to give Detroit a 2-1 series lead.
“It might be the year of the backup goalie this year,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville told CSN Chicago. “Somebody you’ve never heard of may get an opportunity and all of a sudden is a key guy. We all know the importance of the goalie and how the guy who is playing well is getting that net. Sometimes it’s competitive with internal competition but at the same time the rapport is excellent [with the normal starter] and it’s a healthy situation to be in.”
The question is if this trend will continue. Dubnyk really can’t be regarded as a backup anymore and that’s been true since Minnesota acquired him, but if Darling, Allen, or Mrazek falter, then their respective teams might not wait long to replace them.
We’ve already seen Ottawa’s Andrew Hammond be relegated to warming the bench despite his tremendous regular season run and Vancouver’s Eddie Lack was yanked early in Tuesday’s contest. Even still, at this point it’s entirely possible that the goaltender who leads his team to a Stanley Cup championship will be one that didn’t hold the starting job at the beginning of the season.