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One Minute Remaining: Goaltending Magic

Monday, 01.06.2014 / 11:19 AM
By Harvey Wittenberg - Web Contributor / The Blackhawks Blog
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The Blackhawks Blog
One Minute Remaining: Goaltending Magic
Glenn Hall, whose No. 1 jersey was retired by the Blackhawks in 1988, backstopped Chicago to the 1961 Stanley Cup, and just as impressively, played 503 consecutive games without wearing a mask.

In hockey, few would argue that to be successful, everything starts from your goalie on out. In December, with the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup-winning goalie Corey Crawford sidelined and backup Nikolai Khabibulin also injured, Chicago turned to rookie netminder Antti Raanta. The 24-year-old acquitted himself very well in the early going, and was named the NHL's Co-Rookie of the Month for his efforts.

Certainly the most famous goalie situation in Blackhawks—and maybe Stanley Cup Final—history came in the 1938 playoffs, when Chicago's goalie Mike Karakas couldn't play because of a broken toe. Toronto wouldn't allow the Hawks to use New York's goalie, who was available since they were out of the playoffs. Desperate, two hours before the opening game, the Blackhawks found a minor-league goalie, Alfie Moore, in a bar, and he managed to stymie the favored Maple Leafs 3-1 to take away their home ice advantage.

Naturally, Toronto wouldn't let Chicago use him for Game 2. Karakas came back for Games 3 and 4, as the Blackhawks captured their second cup. That squad is still the only NHL team to ever win a Cup with a losing regular-season record. Also, that first game was the only time that Moore ever played for the team.

Corey Crawford's road to being a Stanley Cup champion started in 2003, when he was a second-round pick; the Blackhawks took defenseman Brent Seabrook in the first round. The Montreal native played in two games for the Blackhawks in the 2005-06 season before earning the No. 1 slot for the past three campaigns as well as last year's Cup run while sharing the Jennings Trophy with teammate Ray Emery for the fewest goals allowed.

The 2010 champions rode the goalie pads of rookie Antti Niemi, who was signed as a free agent the previous summer, but took over from Cristobal Huet, who was considered to be the team's No. 1 when the season started.

In the 1961 semis, the Blackhawks stunned the favored defending champion Canadiens, who were gunning for a sixth straight Cup, thanks to eventual Hall-of-Fame goalie Glenn Hall, who blanked Montreal 3-0 in Games 5 and 6. The Blackhawks, behind Hall, Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull and Pierre Pilote, then beat Detroit in the finals. Hall's record of playing in 503 straight games, all without a mask, will probably stand forever.

While never winning a Cup with the Blackhawks, Tony Esposito, who holds most team goalie records, was the greatest waiver deal ever for Chicago. General Manager Tommy Ivan got Esposito for $25,000 from Montreal when the Canadiens decided to keep veteran Gump Worsley over the unproven Esposito.

Chicago's first Cup came in 1934 behind the goaltending of Charlie Gardiner, who won the deciding game 1-0 in double overtime. Gardiner ranks third all-time in shutouts for the Hawks with 42 in only seven seasons before his untimely death.

Through the years, Blackhawk goalies have amassed many records, and while the 1938 Cup winners were a big underdog, Al Rollins achieved one mark that also may never be broken. The goalie won the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player despite the fact that the Hawks finished last. Rollins had 12 wins with five shutouts. Keeping his team in other games, he had seven ties, and was in the net when the team lost 14 other tilts by only one goal.

Hopefully, Head Coach Joel Quennville's success in guiding the Blackhawks will continue on the pads, stick and gloves of his goalies!