Sports Hockey

Blackhawks say thanks, Darling, now go back to bench

By Robert Tychkowski

Predators’ Ryan Ellis crashes towards Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling during Game 1 in Nashville on Wednesday. Darling made 42 saves in relief of Corey Crawford, who starts on Friday. (AFP/PHOTO)

Predators’ Ryan Ellis crashes towards Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling during Game 1 in Nashville on Wednesday. Darling made 42 saves in relief of Corey Crawford, who starts on Friday. (AFP/PHOTO)



Scott Darling just turned in one of the best and most clutch goaltending performances in Chicago Blackhawks playoff history, but all his 67-minute, 42 save effort earned him is a pat on the back and a seat on the pine.

The Hawks would be down 1-0 right now if the 26-year-old hadn’t stolen a 4-3 double-overtime victory from the Nashville Predators Wednesday with his relief effort for the ages (no NHL goalie has ever come off the bench and played more minutes without giving up a goal) but starting Game 2 was never really an option.

Despite Corey Crawford’s wobbly start to the post-season — three goals on 12 shots and a hook in the first intermission — he will get a chance to redeem himself Friday against the Nashville Predators.

“I think it was an easy decision,” said Hawks coach Joel Quenneville, adding the tougher call was yanking him out of Game 1 in the fist place.

“He’s our starting goalie, he’s been our strength all year long. I look forward to him getting back in. He’s your guy and you go with him.

“I commend (Darling) on playing a great game, doing everything he could to get us a game. It’s great to know we have a goaltender like that.

Scott came in and played one of those games you never forget … but Corey is going.”

It makes sense. Crawford started 57 games for Chicago this year, posting a 2.27 goals against average and the sixth best save percentage in the NHL (.924). He also won a Stanley Cup for them in 2013. You don’t throw all of that out the window because of one shaky game.

Two shaky games? That might be another story. But, for now, the net is his.

“When you get pulled in a situation like that, you’re pretty frustrated,” said Crawford. “You’re trying to figure out what I did wrong, some of the decisions I made. It was a tough period, those things happen.

“But I got a free pass off it. It’s nice to get a win after leaving a game like that.”

After watching the 6-foot-6, 232-pound Darling deliver a victory with his heroics, especially in the third period and both overtime periods (Nashville outshot Chicago 38-25 over those 47 minutes), Crawford knows his leash will be short. He has to get back to his regular season form by Friday because Plan B is looking very good.

“You have to have a short memory as a goalie,” he said, speaking on a conference call from the Hawks hotel since neither team skated the day after their five-period marathon.

“There are a lot of crazy things that happen. Bad goals or whatever. It’s all part of the game and really you have to always be thinking of the next shot and not let whatever happened bother you.

“Things like this, they happen once in a while - you just have to keep battling and keep working hard.”

That’s pretty much how the Hawks turned that first period disaster of theirs into a 1-0 series lead.

“As a team we didn’t have a very good first period, gave up some chances that ended up in the back of our net, didn’t help our goaltender the way I know we can,” said captain Jonathan Toews.

“But going into the first intermission, there wasn’t anybody feeling sorry for themselves or anyone feeling the game was a write-off. There was no panic, we just had to chip away over the course over two periods.”

And now they’re 60 minutes away from pushing the Predators to the bottom of a very dangerous hole.

“We relish the opportunity to try and make things as difficult on the other team as we possibly can,” said Toews. “The confidence coming back from that deficit is great for our team, knowing we can always find the silver lining and find a way out of it.”


There are two ways for the Nashville Predators to view the wreckage after Wednesday’s heart-breaking double-overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.
They had a 3-0 lead, they chased Chicago’s starting goalie, they pumped 54 shots on net, controlled most of the game and should have won, so they are definitely good enough to win this series.
Or …
They played a great game, had a 3-0 lead, and it still wasn’t enough to beat Chicago.
After a night to sleep on it, they’re going with the first option.
While the media tried to get Nashville’s players to speak about the frustration, disappointment and concern they were feeling after losing Game 1, the Predators were quick to steer the conversation in the opposite direction.
“We like the way that we played last game,” said Preds centre Colin Wilson, who scored twice in the losing cause. “The mood is good. Obviously you’re a little tired after playing five periods, but everyone is pretty optimistic.”
With good reason, said head coach Peter Laviolette.
“Guys are smart in the room, they know when we’re playing pretty good,” he said. “There’s things we can do better on the penalty kill (the Hawks scored twice with the man advantage), but five on five there was a lot of positives that we can take from the game.”
Still, to pour everything they had into those 87 minutes and have nothing to show for it has to hurt.
“We have to put it behind us, and that would have been the case whether we’d won or we lost,” said Laviolette. “There’s a physical and emotional toll for players to get through that game, but you get back up and get ready to go again. Our guys will be ready for Game 2.”



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