NASHVILLE – Coach Joel Quenneville said it was going to be an easy decision.
Scott Darling had played masterfully in relief of Corey Crawford in Game 1, stopping 42 shots as the Blackhawks came back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Nashville Predators 4-3 in double overtime. Quenneville praised the backup goalie for playing that well in a pressure-filled situation.
But Crawford is the No. 1 goaltender. He’s the guy who’s gotten the Blackhawks to this point. And he’s the guy who will be back in goal the next game.
Crawford will start on Friday when the Blackhawks face the Predators in Game 2 of their first-round series. Quenneville said there was a difficult choice in all of this, but it had nothing to do with figuring out who would start on Friday.
“It was probably tougher to pull him out last night,” Quenneville said. “He’s our starting goalie, he’s been our strength all year long. It was one [bad] period, one collectively as a team, goaltending all the way out through forwards. We look forward to him getting back in tomorrow. This [decision] was easy.”
Crawford was one of the first Blackhawks to skate over to Darling and congratulate him on his relief appearance. He said Wednesday’s benching will not affect him as he prepares for Friday.
“It’s the same as it always is,” Crawford said. “That was a tough period. Those things happen. I got a free pass off it; the guys played wellafter and Darls was awesome. It’s nice to get a win after leaving a game like that.”
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Crawford was pulled after allowing three goals on 12 shots in the first period, when the Predators took a 3-0 lead. It wasn’t all on Crawford. The second goal fell on him but the Blackhawks, who were a mess in front of him for the first 20 minutes, didn’t help. Still, the Blackhawks needed a spark, so the change was made. It’s not an unusual move in the regular season; in the playoffs, however, it’s a bold one.
“There [are] probably a lot of reasons that might go into it, but I felt at that stage, you’re down three nothing, they scored two late goals in the period, let’s do something different,” Quenneville said. “Let’s try something and it turned out that Scott Darling came in and played one of those games you’ll never forget.”
Crawford usually responds well when he’s had mediocre-to-bad outings. He called himself out in last year’s first round after playing poorly vs. St. Louis in Game 2. He recorded a shutout in Game 3. Crawford played a big part in the Blackhawks’ success this season. He’ll look to get back to that on Friday.
“You have to have a short memory as a goalie. 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,” Crawford said. “I’ve learned a lot in my career, had a lot of stuff happen before. Things like this, they happen once in a while. You just have to keep battling and keep working hard.”