Change is coming for the Chicago Blackhawks. Scott Darling will start in the net for the Blackhawks in Game 3 of a best-of-seven series against the Nashville Predators. Currently both teams are tied with one win apiece. Despite the stalemate, the Blackhawks have not performed well thus far.
The news of Darling being inserted as the starter comes after two consecutive pitiful performances by regular goaltender, Corey Crawford.
In Game 1, Crawford gave up three Nashville goals in the first period, leaving the Blackhawks with a 0-3 uphill battle. Chicago did find a way to win in a thrilling double-overtime contest. Of the three goals, two were the fault of Cory Crawford.
The struggles of Crawford is a surprise to many. He led the NHL Western Conference in fewest goals allowed in the regular season, winning the William M. Jennings trophy (courtesy of Fox Sports). His save percentage of .924 was the highest amongst goaltenders who played 30 games or more. Corey Crawford had a stellar .227 GAA (Goals Against Average) during the season.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs offers a different version of Crawford. His save percentage is only.809 and a staggering .675 GAA. Not all of the goals that he has given up has been his fault. Turnovers, sloppy play, and miscommunication are responsible for at least three goals.
During the first playoff game a Blackhawks’ turnover led to a misread by defenseman Michal Rozsival led to an easy unassisted goal by Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson.
Corey Crawford never stood a chance at stopping the puck from going into the net.
The other two shots to go in against Crawford could have been avoided had he not been caught out of position on one play, while overplaying on the second one.
After the first period came to a close Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville turned to rookie Scott Darling in an effort to stop the bleeding.
Not only did Darling stop the bleeding, he stopped 42 shots while keeping Nashville scoreless for the rest of the game.
Coach Quenneville went with experience and started his All-Star goalie (Crawford) in Game 2 and was rewarded with a horrible game. All six goals were scored against Crawford. Sometimes he was able to stop shots with a few good saves, but he was not consistent. The first two goals of the night were considered soft goals.
Quenneville will now turn to the goalie who saved the first game. Scott Darling’s first playoff start is a pivotal game that could decide the series. The rookie has a big game to play. How big goes well beyond his 6-foot-6 stature. Darling is confident going into tomorrow’s game.
The Chicago Sun-Times Rick Morrissey and other reporters asked Darling about his feelings regarding his first playoff start. He responded reinforcing the confidence that the Blackhawk’s coaching staff has in him.
“Just the confidence he has shown in me has been big for my confidence – just the fact that he’s willing to play me in the regular season in important games and the fact that he felt comfortable to put me in (Game 1). He builds my confidence by the confidence he shows in me.”
If Darling hopes to enjoy similar success that he saw in Game 1, the Blackhawks must do better defensively. The defensemen did not get back to protect Crawford, they have to play harder for Darling or else it will be an unusual first-round playoff exit for them.
The best way for the Blackhawks to help Scott Darling is to take shots early and try to score. Their only lead of the series thus far is when they scored the game-winning goal in Game 1. They cannot keep playing from behind no matter who is in net, Corey Crawford or Scott Darling.
Fans should have known that the leash for Crawford would be short. If it were the regular season the team would have allowed him to work out his issues on the ice. The stakes are now high. The stage is big. The Chicago Blackhawks saw that it was time for a change. Will Scott Darling prove the Blackhawk’s coaching staff right?
[Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images Sport]