Blackhawks

Five Things from Hawks-Preds Game 3: Darling stays hot

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Five Things from Hawks-Preds Game 3: Darling stays hot

Goaltender is a pressure-packed position. You have to have thick skin and a short memory. Keeping the nerves in check also helps.

Scott Darling has had a lot thrown at him in his brief NHL career. From goaltender waiting in the wings to Blackhawks backup to (at least at the moment) postseason starter, Darling has handled it all beautifully. That includes Sunday, when Darling got his first NHL postseason start and won, stopping 35 of 37 shots in the Blackhawks’ 4-2 victory over the Nashville Predators.

[MORE: Top line shines as Blackhawks down Preds, take 2-1 series lead]

The Blackhawks are up 2-1 in this first-round series, thanks in large part to Darling. So does he start Game 4? Will the Blackhawks keep the momentum going they gained in Game 3? Let’s get to the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory on Sunday.

1. Who’s your goalie? Yes, we’re going to hit on this topic a lot for obvious reasons. Darling’s work in Games 1 and 3 is one of the feel-good stories of the postseason. So does Darling start on Tuesday? Coach Joel Quenneville said he’ll discuss that with his fellow coaches but it’ll be hard to believe Darling doesn’t get the nod. As Quenneville said, “certainly he did everything he could to get himself back in the net.” Right now, it seems like it’s his job to lose. At least, right now, it should be his job.

[MORE: Predators staying confident after Game 3 loss to Blackhawks]

2. Total team effort. Yes, the Blackhawks gave up those two goals right after they scored. But all in all this was one of their best efforts in some time and definitely their best of the postseason. Once Brandon Saad gave the Blackhawks a 3-2 lead they dominated. Three players scored their first goals of the postseason today (Saad, Andrew Desjardins and Brent Seabrook). The Blackhawks kept the Predators to nine third-period shots and kept attacking right to the end of this one.

3. Top line takes advantage. The Predators were without all-everything defenseman Shea Weber, who would draw the top-line assignment if he was not sidelined with a lower-body injury. Saad, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa exploited that loss, as that trio combined for two goals and three assists. Yes, the Predators still have some fine defensemen. But Weber does so much and plays so much that the Blackhawks had to take advantage of his absence. They did.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

4. Nice debut for Desjardins. Quenneville wanted to change his lineup after Game 2, and installing Desjardins on the fourth line was a great idea. Desjardins, who played well on that line when Joakim Nordstrom was suspended and later injured, scored his first postseason goal since April of 2012. He was energetic and he wasn’t afraid to take shots if they were there. Desjardins finished with four shots on goal, the second highest total of any of the Blackhawks.

5. One more on Hossa. Hey, we have to break out some extra space for Hossa because he was great on Sunday. His game seemed to get better as the postseason neared, and he was all over the place on Sunday, doing everything but score a goal. Hossa had a team-high six shots on goal and two takeaways. Said Saad, “As a team we came out with an extra gear there and Hossa, obviously he’s a special player and he dominated the game.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Blackhawks' One Goal be to tank?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Blackhawks' One Goal be to tank?

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Seth Gruen (Big Ten Unfiltered) and Jason Goch (SB Nation Radio) join Kap on the panel. 

The Blackhawks drop their 8th straight. So should their “One Goal” be to tank?

Plus, Jon Lester isn’t a fan of the new pace of play proposals. Is he right?

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

With playoff chances all but over, what can Blackhawks do at trade deadline?

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USA TODAY

With playoff chances all but over, what can Blackhawks do at trade deadline?

After losing their eighth straight game and falling 12 points out of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference, the Blackhawks' playoff chances have dipped to a season-low 0.2 percent. It would take a miracle for them to extend their postseason streak to 10 at this point, where getting just one win seems like a monumental task.

The Blackhawks were probably never really going to be buyers before the Feb. 26 trade deadline even if they were still in the hunt, but it's hard to imagine they had plans to be sellers. Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman has reiterated over and over again that he's confident in this group, one that's getting younger and faster.

But now they've reached a territory where they have to consider selling off spare parts simply to coup some draft picks or prospects that they could perhaps retain or use as sweeteners in the offseason.

So which players could the Blackhawks realistically sell?

Let's start with the two players getting rewarded with top-six ice time as of late: Lance Bouma and Tommy Wingels.

These are two players that play with high energy and go to the greasy areas, something that's important in the playoffs when scoring goals becomes more difficult. They can clean up rebounds. Wingels, particularly, likely has more value and it's showing given his recent success on the power play as a net-front presence guy. He also isn't a stranger to the playoffs with 54 games under his belt compared to Bouma's five.

Both of them are pending unrestricted free agents and are making $1 million or fewer, which certainly works in the Blackhawks' favor considering they won't cost much and their cap hits are easy to fit in on any interested team.

Maybe a team would like to take a flyer on Tomas Jurco, who's a restricted free agent at the end of the season, but that would be a move somebody makes as more of a longer term project than strengthening your depth for a playoff run this spring.

On the back end, Michal Kempny and Jan Rutta could be in play for a contender looking to ensure some depth as a sixth or seventh defenseman. Again, each of them are making less than $1 million so it's a low-risk situation for clubs whose Plan A or B fall through and may be interested in at least getting something.

While they don't have much NHL experience, they're both 27 years old and have played the sport long enough to know what they can bring to the table.

Once Feb. 26 passes and potential roster spots open up, expect the Blackhawks to start calling up the kids. 

Matthew Highmore deserves a look after leading the Rockford IceHogs with 20 goals and 32 points. John Hayden has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 15 games since joining Rockford, and belongs in the NHL. Even Anthony Louis, who's taken a step forward, should get a taste of the action as he continues his development.

Carl Dahlstrom is getting his shot now. Erik Gustafsson is in that process as well. Gustav Forsling had another extended look during the first half of the season before the team decided it would be wise to continue his development in Rockford, where he can play top-pairing minutes.

All of this would give the Blackhawks a better indicator of how they can approach the upcoming offseason, and which young guys they can possibly add into the mix for 2018-19. But first, we have to see how the end of February plays out before making those calls.