VANCOUVER — Jeff Glass was in his hometown of Calgary for Christmas, and hopped on a flight back to Chicago on Tuesday to get back to the Rockford IceHogs. When he landed at O’Hare, he noticed he had a voicemail and a couple of text messages.
After a quick jaunt back to Rockford to grab his stuff and a few hours of sleep, Glass was right back on a plane to Western Canada. This time as a member of the Blackhawks.
For a guy who has been playing pro hockey for more than 12 years without ever playing in an NHL game, who spent seven seasons in the KHL — sometimes wondering just what the heck he was doing with his life — Corey Crawford’s injury is the opportunity of a lifetime.
The longer Crawford sits (“indefinite” could mean just about anything), the likelier it gets that Glass will make his long-awaited NHL debut. Perhaps even in his hometown.
“As a pro athlete, you should always view it that way — as your last chance, or your only chance,” Glass said. “You never know. You don’t have to ask very many guys [to know], you usually only get one chance. I’m lucky enough to be here now and I’m going to try to make the most of my opportunity and do what I can to help this team win.”
That is how the rest of the Hawks should be looking at this potentially dire situation: an opportunity. An opportunity to find out what they’re made of, to rally around two very inexperienced goaltenders in Anton Forsberg and Glass, to recapture their 5-on-5 dominance to alleviate the pressure on those goalies, to inspire themselves to finally fix a broken power play.
Staying afloat and winning a few games without their most important player could be exactly what the Hawks need to snap out of their season-long malaise.
The only other option is total disaster. And Thursday’s passive, lackluster effort in a 5-2 loss to Vancouver didn’t bode well.
“It’s going to be a great test, knowing that this could be our most critical part of the year,” coach Joel Quenneville said.
Forsberg will have the net as long as he deserves it, with Quenne-ville retaining the option of breaking in Glass in case of emergency. Forsberg has been just OK in his first full NHL season —
occasionally very good, occasionally underwhelming, with just one win to his credit.
It is a far cry from Crawford, who was maybe the leading Vezina Trophy candidate. But for Forsberg, pretty good could be good enough if the Hawks are very good in front of him.
“We can play better in front of him, and we have a lot of confidence in him,” Patrick Kane said. “Obviously we miss Crow; we feel he’s the best goalie in the league. But I think [Forsberg] will do a good job for us.”
Kane cautioned against thinking too much, about doing too much, but he acknowledged it is on everybody to fill the void. It is simply not reasonable to expect Forsberg to put up a .929 save percentage like Crawford has all season.
It is, however, reasonable to expect the Hawks to score more than one goal over two games, as they did heading into the break. And it is reasonable to demand the Hawks’ power play, so loaded with talent, do better than the pathetic 2-for-42 stretch it is mired in entering Thursday’s game in Vancouver.
“We need some production across the board,” Kane said. “But sometimes if you worry about [making up for a player’s absence], it works negatively against you. For us, just focus on the way we’re playing. Play the right way, the way we want to play, the way the coaches are telling us to play. And then let our skill take over. Because we have a lot of guys that can put the puck in the net. We just need those opportunities.”
The opportunity is now. As Glass knows all too well, there might not be another.
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