PRAGUE — No official decision has been made yet on the Blackhawks’ starting goaltender in the opener Friday against the Flyers.
That decision will be discussed between coach Jeremy Colliton, goaltending coach Jimmy Waite and the rest of the staff over the next few days.
“They’re both going to play [this season],” an intentionally vague Colliton said Sunday. “So we’ll see what happens.”
But based on the deployment during the preseason, Corey Crawford likely will be in net.
Crawford’s franchise legacy and long-term track record are holding strong over Robin Lehner’s recent stardom and immediate results — for now.
“I’m doing fine,” Crawford said after the Hawks’ 3-1 win over Eisbaren Berlin, proving far more eager to talk about Berlin netminder Sebastian Dahm’s heroics than his own. “Just trying to see the puck every day and just build off that.”
Crawford finished the preseason with 151 minutes to Lehner’s 121. That’s not a huge difference, but more notably, he started three of the four games — against the Red Wings, Capitals and Eisbaren — in which the Hawks used their regulars.
Lehner’s minor hip injury may have played into that somewhat, although the former Islanders and Sabres goalie is healthy again and insisted Monday that he’d “been fine the whole time.”
One way or another, Lehner’s statistics were better than Crawford, for whatever preseason statistics are worth.
Lehner saved 65 of 70 shots (a .929 save percentage), while Crawford saved 59 of 66 (.894). And excluding the Berlin game, for which advanced stats were not available, Lehner saved 15 of 17 high-danger shots (.882) while Crawford saved just 7 of 11 (.636).
That is a tiny sample size, sure, but those results are not altogether contrasting to last year’s full-season numbers, when Lehner posted a .930 save percentage and Crawford a .908 (of course, there’s a caveat for that too, considering the two defenses they played behind).
Regardless of the comparisons between the two, September did nothing to disprove the Hawks’ belief they now boast one of the best goalie tandems in the league, right up there with the Bruins’ Tuukka
Rask-Jaroslav Halak duo and the Predators’ Pekka Rinne-Juuse Saros combo.
And, as has been known all along, Colliton will ride the hot hand as the season goes along. There’s meaning in who starts game No. 1, and Crawford’s history with the organization amplifies that meaning, but Friday indicates little about which goalie will finish the season in command.
Crawford and Lehner seem to recognize that and were reverent, if not chummy, throughout training camp.
“It’s like in any team, you’re teammates and you have respect for each other,” Lehner said Monday. “Obviously, he’s a very established, good goaltender. It’s been good so far.”
NOTES: The Hawks put defenseman Carl Dahlstrom on waivers and assigned defenseman Dennis Gilbert and forward Anton Wedin to the Rockford IceHogs on Monday.
They all likely will stay unofficially with the group until the return from Europe, though.
That means that Brendan Perlini and Slater Koekkoek are the two bubble guys who seemingly have made the NHL roster, which will be finalized at 4 p.m. Tuesday.