Current goaltending duo reminiscent of last season's

Blogs aren't often written mid-game, but Joel Quenneville's decision to yank Marty Turco less than a minute into the 2nd period inspired me to write something that I've been thinking for a long time.

Corey Crawford is this team's best option at goaltender.

I know it'd be difficult to find anyone to argue with me right now, but many still think Turco could turn things around and start Game 1 in April assuming the Hawks make the postseason. I do not.

Besides the statistical advantage Crawford (2.35 Goals Against and .915 Save Pct.) has over Turco (2.90 and .901), there are trends visible in the goaltenders' games that are reminiscent of last season's goaltending duo.

Yes, that's right, I just compared Marty Turco to Cristobal Huet.

Turco is not and never will be as bad as Huet, but the similarities are impossible to ignore. One thing that peaks curiosity is the way the team plays in front of Turco; like Huet last season, Turco always seems to play behind the Hawks' worst effort.

That isn't Turco's fault on the surface, but it could be a matter of confidence. When a hockey team is confident in its goaltender, the forwards can play on their toes instead of their heels and defensemen can feel safe making sharp, quick passes in their own zone. In front of a shaky goaltender, the team tends to lose focus of its team concept and over-think simple plays, leading to atrocious turnovers like the ones we saw tonight against Colorado.

You may think I'm making this stuff up, but I'm not; the Hawks had significantly better shots/shots against numbers in front of Niemi last year and Khabibulin the year before that than they did in front of Huet. Considering the sample sizes, those aren't coincidences.

Unfortunately, Turco hasn't given his team a reason to play with confidence in front of him. Crawford has.

crawford.jpg

Corey Crawford is playing the role of Antti Niemi this season

Fans like to talk about "momentum-swinging saves." They do exist, and they are more important than any Goals Against or Save Percentage stat in the world. With 17 minutes left in Monday's game vs. the Avalanche, Turco has given up four momentum-swinging goals and Crawford has made several point-blank saves to keep his team in the game. That is what good goaltenders do.

Bad defense or not, a goalie has to have the ability to bail his team out in the NHL. Turco has not shown that ability, and like last season in Huet's case, it leads to an argument split down the middle. Some stand up for the goalie, claiming that "the defense needs to help him out." Others who understand the grand scheme of the game state the obvious, which is that every goal in NHL history could be somehow blamed on a forward or defenseman. A goalie's ability is shown in whether or not he can overcome his team's shortcomings.

Corey Crawford has faced adversity on numerous occasions in this young season and has often come out on top. His 8-4-1 record speaks volumes, especially behind an inexperienced and injured lineup on most nights. Crawford has in many ways been a leader by example. When the Hawks need something to feel good about, #50 is usually there to provide a big save to keep his team alive.

Like last season, Joel Quenneville has an experienced free agent veteran and an inexperienced rookie to choose from at the goaltending position.

It appears he has come to the right decision. Fortunately, he may have figured it out in December instead of waiting until March.

-JT

Follow Jtalarico328 on Twitter

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    John Talarico

    A teacher doubling as a sportswriter. When I'm home (currently teaching in NC since March '11), I sit in Section 328. I saw it all. I was there when you could hear someone fart in 326 and I was there with tears in my eyes when the lights dropped before Game 1 of the Finals. I love this team as much as life itself, but I won't feed you bull. All opinions are my own.

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