Photo: Chicago Blackhawks Twitter
The Chicago Blackhawks opened the season with a bang, but have fizzled with inconsistency and injury. As they head into the new year, though, the team can close the door on 2017 knowing they really do have what it takes to compete.
With Corey Crawford‘s second injury this season placing him on the injured reserve, teammates lost a shoulder they’d been leaning on. Crawford, with a 2.27 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage, had saved not just pucks, but a struggling team rather often in his 28 games played.
Coach Joel Quenneville told media, after announcing Crawford’s upper-body injury, that he expected the rest of the team to rally in his absence:
“He means a lot to us. You look around at all the goaltenders in the league, he’s probably had the best year to date. How many goalie wins has he had? More than just a few. So we were talking today, we’re going to need everybody to absorb some responsibility here, do a little more individually, adding up collectively. And that can make us a better team. . . . It’s going to be a great test knowing that this could be our most critical part of the year.”
Against Vancouver Wednesday, in a 5-2 lashing, backup netminder Anton Forsberg‘s NHL career stats fell to a .891 save percentage with just two wins in 22 games played/18 games started, including a 1-5-3 record in nine games started (12 played) this season.
Despite goals from Nick Schmaltz (Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, first period) and Ryan Hartman (Alex Debrincat, John Hayden, to close the third), the Hawks couldn’t compete with a two-goal, three assist game from Thomas Vanek, two goals, one assist from Sam Gagner, and one goal, three assists from Brock Boeser.
This defeat gave Chicago a chance for a storybook resurgence one night later in Edmonton.
Through the looking ‘Glass’
With Crawford out indefinitely and Forsberg’s lackluster performance against the Canucks, the Blackhawks called upon Jeff Glass (on a plane to Chicago’s AHL team in Rockford, Ill. from celebrating the holidays at home in Calgary) to finally break into the NHL Friday night back in Alberta against the Edmonton Oilers.
According to Chicago media and NHL biographical information, Glass, 32, has played in goal with NHL hopes for 13 years—including four years in the NHL, a seven-season stint with the KHL and a return to the AHL before his call-up Friday.
His parents, wife, and two-month-old daughter watched as Glass faced 45 shots on goal.
This was followed by three consecutive Blackhawks goals:
- With less than a minute left in the first, Hartman (Kane, Schmaltz) tied the game with a net-front rebound.
- In the second, Alex DeBrincat (Schmaltz, Keith) went five-hole on the power play for the lone goal in the period.
- Jordan Oesterle (Vinnie Hinostroza) netted his first NHL goal, an in-off-the-post wrister on the power play, with 11:26 left in regulation.
But the hungry Oilers answered.
- Nugent-Hopkins (Andrej Sekera, Puljujarvi) got lucky with a goal deflected off a wrist-shot from the point with 2:19 left in the third.
- Leon Draisaitl (Nugent-Hopkins, Patrick Maroon) tied the game with about 54 seconds remaining when he found a loose puck at a crowded net and lifted it over Glass’ shoulder.
Chicago needed this game, though. And, they proved it in overtime. Just 50 seconds in, it was “showtime” in Edmonton.
Glass called his first NHL win “something he dreamed of, never thought would come true.”
“It was pretty good, a little more exciting than I needed it to be at the end, but unbelievable goal by Kaner there in overtime. In the first period, it felt nice to touch the puck. I’m sure if I didn’t have any shots, I would have been sitting there wondering what’s going on. It kind of felt routine after that.”
He made 42 saves.
Despite his remarkable game-winning goal in overtime, Kane told press that Glass was the story—a perspective that was apparent when he directed his celebration at his goalkeeper:
“For him to kind of be a journeyman, to wait this long for his first career NHL start, to be close to home for him, the way he played tonight, you can’t really write a better script. You got to be ecstatic for him. We were all jacked up after the game. Probably happier than a normal win in the regular season just because he was in net.”
This comes on the heels on Kane’s 300th goal (the Hawks’ lone goal in a 3-1 loss) last Saturday against the New Jersey Devils.
Joining Crawford on the injured reserve is Artem Anisimov, who has had 13 goals and five assists in 38 games this season.
Playing on momentum, Glass is expected to start Sunday in Calgary, the Blackhawks’ last game of 2017.
.@glasswall33 bounced around the minors & KHL since being drafted in 2004, but last night, the 32 year old goaltender put up 42 saves to earn his first career win in overtime, in his @NHL debut with the @NHLBlackhawks.
Work hard & don’t give up on your goals, friends. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/CLeCCHPZn2
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) December 30, 2017
The Blackhawks face the Flames at 7 p.m. C.T. on SN360 and WGN.