Last year, when the Anaheim Ducks faced a season-defining stretch of games late in the season, they turned to Ray Emery. He did all that he could to help the Ducks make a push for the postseason, but Anaheim didn’t see the need to bring him back after a strong showing.
Now, as the Blackhawks face their own crisis between the pipes, Emery has once again stood up and grabbed control of the crease.
Since replacing Corey Crawford in Los Angeles on Feb. 25, Emery has been superb. He has allowed only six goals against 132 shots , a .958 save percentage. For his efforts, Emery was named the NHL’s third star for the week ending on March 4.
Chicago has followed their nine-game losing streak with a four-game winning streak, a three-game losing streak and have now won three in a row. Without their captain, they have earned two crucial victories over the Red Wings, and had arguably their most complete game of the year in Ottawa.
With Jonathan Toews out of the lineup, the Blackhawks have relied on their defensive play to earn wins. After Sunday’s victory in Detroit, the Hawks are 4-3-o since Toews left the lineup.
Looking back over Emery’s season, he has actually been more consistent than many fans would give him credit for at first glance. He has allowed more than four goals in a game only three times in 28 appearances. In December, when the Blackhawks were struggling, Emery stepped in and won five straight games to turn the month around.
In fact, if you remove two bad games from his season numbers (both from November – five goals allowed in Tampa and seven goals allowed in Edmonton), Emery’s season save percentage jumps to .919, which is a solid number. His save percentage has been at least .900 in every month except November.
Perhaps most impressive – and important – has been Emery’s ability to come into a game to relieve Crawford. There were questions about Emery’s ability to come off the bench coming into the season because of his surgically repaired hip, but he has shut up his critics with outstanding play off the bench. In six relief appearances this year, Emery has stopped 72 of 77 shots (.935 save percentage).
It now appears that the net is Emery’s to lose down the stretch, and the Hawks are hoping he continues to dominate as the postseason draws near.