Blackhawks make Belfour feel needed | Bleader

Blackhawks make Belfour feel needed



Ed Belfour
It was Ed Belfour Heritage Night at the United Center Sunday, but the Blackhawks found a curious way to celebrate it.

The Hawks were honoring their longtime goalie, Eddie "the Eagle," on his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame last year. Belfour, for fans who have only joined the Hawks since their Stanley Cup campaign two years ago, won the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year and the Vezina Trophy as the league's best goaltender in 1990-'91, when he claimed 43 victories, still a single-season Hawks record. He had a difficult year the following season but pulled it together for the playoffs to help get the Hawks into the Cup finals, where fate (and quality) caught up with them in the form of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Belfour played eight seasons with the Hawks before going on to complete a 20-year career that earned him a place in hockey's hall.

Unfortunately, the Hawks made it seem as if they could still use him Sunday.

Playing without key defenseman Duncan Keith, the Hawks allowed visiting Nashville only 24 shots on goal, and actually outshot the Predators with 25. Yet six of theirs went in, against but one for the Hawks—a screened shot with a man advantage by Viktor Stalberg that didn't begin to atone for the Hawks' otherwise inept power play.

Some of the Preds' chances were quality shots, but Hawks goalie Corey Crawford let in a couple long ones before getting pulled early in the third period, and backup Ray Emery was no better, allowing two goals, one of them a long one that got by him.

A save percentage of 75 is not going to do it, not even in peewee hockey.

Even as coach Joel Quenneville has studiously avoided a goalie controversy this season, he's gone back and forth to the hot hand, and Crawford had been stellar since replacing Emery to claim a comeback victory against the league-leading Saint Louis Blues March 13.

"It just seemed like nothing was going our way," Crawford said afterward. He advised everyone to "forget about this one and get back to the way we were playing before."

To his credit, Quenneville declined to blame either goalie, saying, "We collectively absorbed that loss."

It's just a reminder that the hockey goalie plays one of the most demanding positions, physically and mentally, in all of sports, and that Belfour, for all his success, always seemed to have an anguished, worried look to his eyes inside that eagle mask of his. To play that demanding position so well for so long, yes, that will get you into the Hockey Hall of Fame.