If Blackhawks fans went to sleep Thursday night and dreamt up the doomsday scenario that is a Corey Crawford injury, their nightmare has come true.
The defensively challenged Blackhawks placed their starting goalie and early season MVP on injured reserve Friday afternoon, declining to disclose the nature or severity of the ailment in a brief media release. It was a surprise development after Crawford played the entirety of a 4-3 overtime loss to the Stars Thursday, stopping 31 of 35 shots.
To take Crawford's place, Chicago recalled Jean-Francois Berube (6-6-0, 2.56 GAA, .913 save percentage) from their AHL affiliate. He'll back up Anton Forsberg for the time being.
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) December 1, 2017
Berube, who's 6-6-0 with a .913 save percentage this season with the AHL IceHogs, was the primary subject of the Blackhawks' announcement, which devoted a mere two sentences to Crawford. Neither Crawford nor coach Joel Quenneville indicated a possible injury following Thursday's game, and Quenneville isn't scheduled to address the media until Saturday's morning skate, leaving Blackhawks followers fearing the worst about their oft-injured goalie.
— Cristiano Simonetta (@CMS_74_) December 1, 2017
The 32-year-old Crawford is 11-7-2 in 22 starts this season. His .930 save percentage ranks fourth in the NHL, a small miracle given the struggles of Chicago's thin blueline, and any long-term absence would be cause for panic for a team that entered Friday in fifth place (12-9-4, 28 points).
A series of medical issues have limited Crawford throughout his eight-year NHL career, most recently an emergency appendectomy Dec. 2, 2016, that kept him out most of December last season. He also suffered a concussion at the end of the 2015-16 season, when officials for the Blackhawks and NHL failed to remove him from a game, per protocol.
It's too soon to paint a doom-and-gloom picture until Quenneville clears the air. But if Crawford misses more than a week or two, it could be enough to set the Blackhawks back immeasurably within a competitive Central Division.