Blackhawks

After trading Scott Darling, can the Blackhawks find another reliable backup goalie?

After trading Scott Darling, can the Blackhawks find another reliable backup goalie?

What we all expected to happen did happen on Friday night when the Blackhawks traded Scott Darling to the Carolina Hurricanes.

One way or another, be it via trade or just going to unrestricted free agency on July 1, Darling was headed elsewhere. He’s earned the opportunity to be a No. 1 goaltender, it wasn’t going to happen here, and now he’ll get that chance.

But this isn’t about where Darling’s career takes him from this point. This is about the Blackhawks and where they go from here. They’ve been in the enviable position of having some stellar backup goaltenders the past few seasons, from Ray Emery to Antti Raanta to Darling. So as this offseason continues, finding another one becomes top priority.

A few days ago Pat Boyle and I discussed a few topics on the HawksTalk Podcast, including what we considered to be on general manager Stan Bowman’s to-do list this summer. Getting a reliable backup goaltender has to be on there because the Blackhawks have shown over the past few seasons that having that great 1-2 punch in net has proven very successful.

Let’s go back to the 2013 offseason. In the summer of 2013 the Blackhawks signed two goaltenders. One was Nikolai Khabibulin, the other Raanta. We all remember how that went. Khabibulin, another former Blackhawks player brought in on the hopes that he had something left, didn’t. He started four games — two of which Corey Crawford came in and finished — suffered an injury in mid November and never played another game for the Blackhawks. Then on Dec. 8, Crawford, playing in his 27th game of the Blackhawks’ first 32 games of that season, got hurt. Enter Raanta, who went on a tear through December, going 8-1-3. That season highlights the need for reliable depth at that position more than any in recent memory.

You’re familiar with the other examples, too. Emery was outstanding when he had to be in the lockout-shortened 2013 regular season — please see that 45-stop outing vs. Calgary — and he and Crawford earned the William M. Jennings Trophy that year. Darling showed how dependable he could be several times the past few seasons, from his work in the 2015 first-round series against the Nashville Predators to his record (6-3-1) when Crawford was out with appendicitis through the first three weeks of last December.

That depth at goaltending has been especially critical the past two seasons. How many “goalie wins” did the Blackhawks have through the 2015-16 season, when they struggled to get consistent line combinations past their second one? How many did they have at the start of this past season before they did get that four-line rotation in February?

Crawford has played between 55 and 59 games in each full regular season dating back to 2010-11. Injuries happen. Slumps happen. Being overworked happens. Having a backup on which you can rely is something every team would love to have and something the Blackhawks have had recently, and they’ve benefitted from it.

It’s easy for us to sit here and say the Blackhawks need to do this. Actually finding that guy is an entirely different matter. But the Blackhawks have done it well lately, and despite the team’s quick exit this spring, there are still plenty of reasons for a would-be backup goaltender to come to Chicago.

Darling was the latest to embrace the backup goaltending role in his time here. His moving on was inevitable. Now the Blackhawks need to find the next guy who can keep their 1-2 punch in net going.

Why the Stanley Cup was late to Blackhawks' 2015 Game 6 win over Lightning

Why the Stanley Cup was late to Blackhawks' 2015 Game 6 win over Lightning

Out of tradition and superstition, the Stanley Cup is never in the building until after puck drop during a Stanley Cup Final game in which it could be won, unless it's a Game 7 when both teams have a shot.

On June 15 in 2015, when the Blackhawks won their sixth Stanley Cup in franchise history, old Stanley was a little late to his own party at the United Center.

As the Keeper of the Cup Philip Pritchard tells host Pat Boyle on the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, fans were already celebrating the Hawks Cup-clinching win over the Lightning outside the UC as the trophy was pulling in.

Broadcasters 'Doc' Emrick and Eddie Olczyk were filling time waiting for the Cup to arrive, which was still absent during the handshake line.

According to Pritchard, the Cup left the hotel around puck drop and it was the stormy weather that made the Keeper and the best trophy in sports tardy for the celebration.

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"People that weren't (at the game yet) were in traffic and just leaving their cars and walking and the roads were flooded, the highways were flooded, the bypass was like a lake. And as we were coming out towards the arena, we realized then that we were going to need some help, not just Mother Nature help, but we're going to need security help with it as well," Pritchard said.

"As we pulled into the arena — obviously the game had finished and the Blackhawks won — the home team's going nuts, the hometown fans are going crazy. So we presented (the Conn Smythe) to Duncan Keith and then we brought the Stanley Cup out and I remember on the ice talking to Jonathan Toews and he said, 'That was so cool that it took so long and the fans were loving it.' And I was telling him what went on and he goes, 'Really? I just thought it was part of the effect.'"

Report: NHL 2020 training camp, hub city report, playoff start dates emerge

Report: NHL 2020 training camp, hub city report, playoff start dates emerge

Friday, TSN's Bob McKenzie reported some key dates being targeted for the NHL's Return To Play plan, including the start of the 24-team playoff format.

McKenzie said the new slated date for team training camps (Phase 3) is July 13. Teams would report to the hub cities (reportedly Edmonton and Toronto) on July 26 with games and Phase 4 beginning on August 1. 

Bob also shed some light on when Phase 2 of the NHL Draft Lottery and the conclusion of the playoffs may pan out.

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"The second phase of the NHL draft lottery will occur immediately following the best-of-five, play-in qualifying series, so around Aug. 10-12 if all were to go well. Stanley Cup final would wrap up in early October. NHL draft would happen soon after that," he tweeted Friday.

Related: Report: Edmonton expected to host Stanley Cup Final

In Phase 1, the No. 1 overall pick for the 2020 NHL Draft went to a placeholder team. Each of the eight teams that lose in the qualifying round of the postseason format will have a 12.5 percent chance of getting the top pick in Phase 2. 

Related: What if Blackhawks get No. 1 pick and select Alexis LaFreniere?