Five Things from Blackhawks-Preds: Darling impresses again


Five Things from Blackhawks-Preds: Darling impresses again

NASHVILLE — It’s certainly not how the Blackhawks would’ve drawn it up: a horrible first period, a 3-0 deficit out of it, a pulled starting goaltender, a second-period comeback and one-plus overtime to get the winner.

Yes, it was an interesting night for the Blackhawks, who started off bad and finished with a flourish and a 4-3 double-overtime victory over the Nashville Predators on Wednesday. This one featured all sorts of drama and, well, some damn awesome playoff hockey from both teams.

So while we still have a little post-deadline adrenaline flowing, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ come-from-behind victory over the Predators.

[MORE: Goalie switch sparks Blackhawks to double-OT win in Game 1]

1. Darling does it again. Scott Darling probably didn’t think his first NHL postseason game would come in relief duty but there it is nonetheless. Darling was in from the second period on, and was outstanding from the third period until Duncan Keith scored the game-winning goal. One stop that will likely get replayed a few times is his stop on Ryan Ellis on a third-period power play. Darling said he did some previous video study on it: “they tried it a few times before and didn’t connect. That one they did it exactly how they wanted to do it and I got a leg over,” he said. “It’s a 50-50 shot: either he gets the top of the net or doesn’t and it hit my leg. So I was happy about that.”

2. Patrick Kane is back. Kane said he felt a little rusty with his timing, something that was expected given he missed the last seven weeks with a fractured clavicle. Nevertheless, he made an impact and it was most noticeable on the power play. The Blackhawks scored two power-play goals on Wednesday, a Patrick Sharp 5-on-3 and a Jonathan Toews 5-on-4 score that tied the game. Even when they didn’t score on it, their possession time and opportunities were much better. Kane was a major contributor to that.

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3. Be ready from the start. The Blackhawks weren’t — clearly — ready at puck drop on Wednesday night. The Predators deserve their share of the credit. They were out to prove something, they had a crowd decidedly on their side and they took advantage of every miscue the Blackhawks committed. The Predators had great chances to win this game, chances that Darling stopped. The Predators will look for the same start on Friday; the Blackhawks have to be more ready for it then than they were on Wednesday.

4. Sticking with it. The Blackhawks haven’t faced many 3-0 first-period deficits in recent playoff games but they have dealt with the ups and downs of postseasons. That experience helped them on Wednesday, when they said they didn’t scream or carry on after a horrible first. “Nobody was too down; we knew we had a lot of time left,” Kane said. “It’s something we’ve been through a lot.”

5. It is just one game. Let’s look at this with a broad scope: the Blackhawks played a tremendous second period but Darling had to come up with some massive saves to keep this game going as long as it did. The Blackhawks will take this one, especially given that bad start. But they know there’s no reason to over-celebrate. Said Keith, “first game in a series. There’s a lot of hockey left to be played.”

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?

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?


Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: