Backup goalie Scott Darling is gaining confidence with Blackhawks


Backup goalie Scott Darling is gaining confidence with Blackhawks

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.”

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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.”

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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.”

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

It was a rare sight to see the Blackhawks in a shootout on Wednesday night.

It was just the second time this season — and first time at the United Center — that the Blackhawks made it past 3-on-3 overtime. 

The last came on Dec. 2, 2017, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars in Dallas. On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks were on the other end, beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in a seven-round shootout. Nick Schmaltz netted the game-winner.

"We'll take it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we had a decent game tonight. Overtime not so good, I liked the shootout victory, Fors made some big saves for us particularly as the game got deeper. Our third was OK, I thought our first two were way better, and overtime we gave up some high quality, some bells were rings for a bit there. But it was nice to see the shootout win."

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, recording another multi-point game, his 16th of the season.

"I mean we need every point we can get at this point," Kane said. "There's still belief in this locker room. Obviously we need to go on quite a run and have a big record here down the stretch. But take it a game at a time and nice to get two points."

Anton Forsberg was a big reason the Blackhawks even recorded those two points. The 25-year-old netminder stopped 34 of 36 shots and made a handful of big saves down the stretch.

"It was really nice to get a win for sure," Forsberg said. "I would love to have a lot more wins, but right now just gotta look forward and get as many wins as possible."

Added Quenneville: "I think it was good for him to win a game the way he did. Lot of shots were on the line, as we progressed, got deeper, hitting the point first was big for him and for us and then finding a way to get the extra one was a good win."

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?