Darling Day: Blackhawks goaltender honored in hometown of Lemont


Darling Day: Blackhawks goaltender honored in hometown of Lemont

Scott Darling carried the Stanley Cup through the Lemont Park District building, a few steps away from where he went to middle school and not far from where he grew up.

“To have my family here and just to be in the streets where I used to ride my bike, hang out and to see people so excited to have me here, it’s been pretty amazing,” said Darling.

Monday marked another memorable day for Darling, who celebrated his Stanley Cup day in Lemont and the surrounding area. Darling took the Cup to Palatine and Bloomingdale this morning before heading back to Lemont, where a few thousand people attended the Cup viewing. Lemont mayor Brian K. Reaves proclaimed Monday Scott Darling Day and also presented a sign bearing Darling’s name, which will be placed on a street sign near the goaltender’s childhood home.

“This is what you dream about, this is the pinnacle of what we worked toward,” Darling said. “It’s pretty amazing.”

[MORE BLACKHAWKS: Scott Darling gets new Stanley Cup inspired tattoo]

It was just about a year ago that the Blackhawks signed Darling, who, up to that point, had played for four minor-league teams since the fall of 2012. It was a chance for Darling to play for his hometown team, although it didn’t seem to be a major one at the time. Antti Raanta had established himself as the Blackhawks’ backup and had just signed a two-year extension. But Darling impressed the Blackhawks at training camp and when Corey Crawford was hurt in December, Darling started four consecutive road games and won three of them.

In February the Blackhawks signed Darling to his own two-year extension and sent Raanta to Rockford. The Blackhawks made their choice of backup goaltender then but they reconfirmed it on Saturday when they traded Raanta to the New York Rangers. While Darling and Raanta fought for the same job here, Darling said the two remain close.

“He and I, through a pretty uncomfortable situation, remained really great friends,” Darling said. “He’s a great guy. We continue to be friends and I wish him the best of luck (in New York). It’s an exciting opportunity for him and for me, too.”

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Get your Blackhawks Stanley Cup champs gear right here]

Darling won’t relax now that the backup goaltending job is his. His signing last summer and emergence this season is the perfect example of how things can change. Still, it’s looking good for Darling. The Blackhawks like what he brings and he played a critical role in the team’s first-round victory over the Nashville Predators.

Soon, the furor will die down and Darling will be able to reflect on the whirlwind that’s been this past year – “that’ll probably start tomorrow… maybe turn my phone off and enjoy it a little bit.” For one more day, however, Darling was enjoying the Cup reverie among those who know him best.

“It means a lot,” Darling said. “I never forgot where I came from. I call this home; I always have my whole life. I played baseball with the Lemont Indians. I see the kids in Orland Park jerseys. They’re on their way; they’re on the right path. It’s exciting.”

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. One big reunion.

The Blackhawks will square off with the Blue Jackets for the first time since Oct. 7, which was the second game of the season. In that game, they won 5-1 led by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, each of whom scored a goal and added an assist.

Of course, that was the first game since the offseason trade that sent Artemi Panarin to Columbus and Saad back to Chicago, along with Anton Forsberg. Artem Anisimov, of course, was part of the original deal that sent Saad to Columbus in 2015, so there are a lot of emotional ties between the two teams.

Forsberg didn't get a chance to face the Blue Jackets in the first meeting, but there's a chance he will this time with it being the second of a back-to-back and Jean-Francois Berube getting the start in Friday's 3-1 win over San Jose.

2. Panarin and Kane bromance.

The emotions of a difficult break-up have probably died down by now, but Panarin and Kane gave us this moment at center ice during pregame warmups in their first game against each other and it hit Chicago right in the feels:

Panarin has spent enough time apart from Kane for people to realize how big of a star he is in his own right, leading the Blue Jackets in all three scoring categories: goals (17), assists (32) and points (49).

He hasn't gone more than three games this season without recording a point, and is looking to extend his point streak to four games, which would tie a season high.

3. Struggling Blue Jackets special teams.

The Blue Jackets got off to a great start but are barely clinging onto a wild card spot going into Saturday's game, and a big reason for that slide is their lack of success on special teams. Usually one can pick up the slack for the other, but they've been brutal in both departments.

The Blue Jackets are 0-for-9 on the power play in their past five games and are ranked 31st overall, converting on only 14.1 percent of their opportunities. They also have own the 27th-ranked penalty kill with a 76.3 percent success rate.

So if there's an area the Blackhawks can exploit, it's that. But, you know, still be mindful of that Russian winger's one-timer from the faceoff circle.

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start


Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

Jean-Francois Berube got his first start of the season on Friday night, and it couldn't have gone any better.

The 26-year-old goaltender stopped 42 of 43 shots, a career-high for him in saves, in the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the United Center.

Since Corey Crawford went down with a head injury last December, the Blackhawks have been searching for consistency in the crease. 

The pair of Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass — who was assigned to Rockford on Feb. 15 and replaced with Berube — have had their ups and downs since then. With the Blackhawks out of the playoff picture, Berube had an opportunity showcase his skills, and he didn't disappoint.

"We were very happy with him," said coach Joel Quenneville. "I thought he did a great job. He was comfortable. I thought he was very patient in his net. Absorbing a lot of pucks with people in front of him was good. Closed some gaps and got … of the top of the paint. Rebound control was effective. Nice response from a long absence."

Berube's last — and only — appearance with the Blackhawks prior to Friday's game came on Dec. 6, relieving Forsberg in a game against the Washington Capitals. He recorded 12 saves of 14 shots. 

When Crawford got injured, Berube was the primary candidate to become the team's backup goaltender. The only problem? He was injured too, so the Blackhawks promoted Glass.

"I didn't want to sit and think about it," Berube said of his injury. "At the same time, it was great for Glasser. He was one of those guys that probably deserved it earlier in his career and he finally got his chance. Sometimes you need a guy to go down to have your chance. So I was mostly happy for him.

On Friday night, he got his chance.

"You always want to have a good impression for your first game," Berube said. "I know what I can do at this level, so it was just a matter of getting the opportunity to play and showing people what I can do."

Celebrating his 22nd birthday, Nick Schmaltz also had a goal and an assist. Artem Anisimov scored an empty-netter.

"It's a lot more fun coming to the rink when you're winning, enjoying each other, playing well as a team," Schmaltz said of the Blackhawks' win, which have now won three of their last four games. "Hopefully we can keep that good energy and bring it to the rink every day, and build off of that.

"You never know where this team can go, a lot of great players, lots of guys that have had a lot of success. Hopefully we can continue to put together solid efforts."