Scott Darling wishes it wouldn’t have to be this way.
The Blackhawks backup goaltender is like anyone else: he wants to play. He’s getting those starts now due to Corey Crawford’s upper-body injury, which has sidelined the Blackhawks’ starter since last week.
“Obviously I wish it were different circumstances. We don’t want Corey to be hurt; we miss him for sure,” Darling said following Sunday’s game. “But I’m happy to be playing. It’s good for me to get a little momentum going. Even though I’m 1-1-1, I feel like I’ve played pretty well. It’s good going forward that I’ll have this experience.”
The life of a backup goaltender means taking advantage of every opportunity you get, and Darling is doing that right now. He could be doing that again on Tuesday, when the Blackhawks host the Central Division-leading Dallas Stars at the United Center. As of Sunday, coach Joel Quenneville said there was no change with Crawford’s status.
But Darling’s recent starts – a 28-save shutout vs. Winnipeg and a shootout loss vs. the Wild in which he stopped 32 of 34 shots – have helped the Blackhawks gain some points. They’ve also helped Darling’s confidence.
“Yeah, I thought he was very patient, had quick movement,” Quenneville said. “[The Wild] had some quick sticks around the net and coverage around loose stuff in front of our net was a little dangerous. But it’s good for him and nice to see the response.”
Darling got an opportunity the same way last season when Crawford was sidelined with a lower-body injury in December 2014. At that time, Darling won three of four starts, earning the trust of the Blackhawks coaches and eventually earning the backup job.
Darling had his up-and-down moments this season, but he’s been better in his recent stint. Having two goaltenders the Blackhawks can rely upon gives them the chance to concentrate on other parts of their game.
“At the end of the day, our goaltenders have been great. It goes back to just focusing on things like our penalty kill and defensive play and helping them out as much as we can,” Jonathan Toews said. “It always gives you confidence if you can have two guys who can jump in and help your team. Crow is needing some time off, Scotty can step in and we still feel that depth and security back there.”
[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]
When you’re the backup goaltender to a workhorse, it’s tough to get a lot of starts. But with Crawford sidelined the Blackhawks have needed Darling’s help. So far, he’s supplied that.
“I mean it’s tough to be a backup goalie. Corey’s played so well and has been so hot all year. Darls hasn’t had many starts but when he has, he’s been good for us,” Andrew Shaw said. “His confidence is up. He’s practicing hard, competing out there, and he’ll use that in games as well.”