Ray Emery, whose masterful work as a backup goalkeeper factored into the Blackhawks' run toward the 2013 Stanley Cup, has died. He was 35.
Emery came to Chicago on a tryout before the 2011-12 season. Despite an inauspicious performance during exhibition games - he was 0-2-0 with a 4.58 goals-against average and a .813 save percentage - Emery got the nod over Alexander Salak as Corey Crawford's sidekick. Senior Vice President/General Manager Stan Bowman cited experience as a part of his decision. Emery had been the no. 1 goalie when the surprising Ottawa Senators advanced to the Final in 2007.
Emery did not disappoint. He compiled a 15-9-4 mark with a goals-against average of 2.81 in 2011-12. With Crawford battling a lower-body injury, Emery won his Blackhawks' debut 4-3 on Oct. 13 at the United Center, where he would post a 10-0-3 record for the season. The Chicago chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association nominated him for the Masterton Memorial Trophy, a citation for dedication and perseverance.
Emery then signed a one-year extension, and again he proved more than up to the task by crafting a remarkable 17-1-0 record with a goals-against of 1.94 and a save percentage of .922 over an abbreviated schedule. He did so with panache, becoming the first goalie in National Hockey League history to begin a season with ten straight victories.
Among them was a 45-save jewel on Feb. 2 in Calgary, a 3-2 Blackhawks' shootout win over the Flames after which Head Coach Joel Quenneville genuflected thusly: "Ray played unbelievable. That was criminal. I've never been outchanced and outplayed like that in my life. You've got to call the cops after that performance."
On March 18 at Colorado, Emery backstopped a 5-2 conquest of the Avalanche for his 11th consecutive triumph. Then he broke his own record with a 12th victory in a row by vanquishing the Calgary Flames, 2-0. When he blanked the Minnesota Wild 1-0 on April 9, it marked his third shutout in five starts. Upon conclusion of the 48-game schedule, Emery and Crawford shared the William M. Jennings Trophy awarded to the goalie(s) yielding the fewest goals over the course of a regular season. Crawford, who played 30 games, also finished with a goals-against average of 1.94. Emery received some support for the Vezina Trophy, unusual for a no. 2 goalie.
Crawford started and finished all 23 postseason games, but teammates hailed Emery's contributions as the Blackhawks secured their second Stanley Cup in four seasons with a dramatic six-game triumph over the Boston Bruins in the Final. Emery, an emotional sort with nicknames "Razor" and "Sugar Ray," celebrated his only Stanley Cup championship in style.
"It's good knowing who your partner is going to be," Emery said. "Corey and I kind of developed a relationship where we worked well together and supported each other. I've been on a few teams and coming here on a tryout, not knowing what to expect, then getting a chance to stay for another year and winning a Stanley Cup is exciting."
The next offseason Emery signed for a second tour with the Philadelphia Flyers. But an enduring snapshot features Emery at June's Stanley Cup parade on a double-decker bus beside friends Dave Bolland and Daniel Carcillo, both of whom expressed shock at Emery's passing on Sunday.