Blackhawks

Blackhawks confident in one-two punch of Crawford, Darling

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Blackhawks confident in one-two punch of Crawford, Darling

There were plenty of changes for the Blackhawks this offseason, mainly among the forward and defenseman groups. Uncertainty usually accompanies change, and the Blackhawks will work through that as they have in the past.

But when it comes to the Blackhawks’ goaltending, coach Joel Quenneville is pretty sure of what he’s got.

“There was some uncertainty there in the past,” he said. “And now we’re probably as comfortable as we’ve been with our goaltenders, one-two, starting the season.”

Corey Crawford and Scott Darling made a great tandem down the stretch and both are looking to start the 2015-16 season strong. For Crawford, it’s building off a second Stanley Cup and second William Jennings Trophy — he shared last season’s honor with Carey Price and shared the 2012-13 award with former teammate Ray Emery. For Darling, it’s prepping for a sophomore season after an impressive 2014-15.

“Well, I think both guys proved they can play, and both played meaningful games for us down the stretch,” Quenneville said. “Darls came a long way over the course of a season; it looks like he’s taking off from that note and wants to get better. I think there’s healthy competition and good support through each other as well.”

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Crawford and Darling have formed a good bond on and off the ice. The competition, however, remains.

“We push each other, we work together to make each other better,” Crawford said. “We talk about other teams’ players, our technique, pretty much anything. It’s good to have that communication between us and with Jimmy (Waite, Blackhawks goaltending coach), too. We have to be a team back there and work on ways to — not necessarily make it easier, but find ways where it’s more efficient to stop the puck. We’re both excited, and we both feel pushing each other makes us that much better, too.”

Darling said Crawford is another “coach” for him.

“He’s a little easier on me than Jimmy,” Darling said. “But just learning from him and watching how he prepares and plays game in and game out has been helpful for my career. There’s no better mentor to have.”

It was a short summer for all of the returning Blackhawks, including the goaltenders. For Crawford, this is his second quick offseason turnaround. But he said he budgeted his off time the right way.

“The training was there, no question; I didn’t miss any of that. I took just enough time (off), mentally and physically, and then it was back to work. You don’t want to miss too much time because it gets harder and harder to start back up as the years go on,” Crawford said with a smile. “Hockey-wise in the summer, it’s the same thing. That nice mental break helps when you’re coming into camp fresh. Your mind’s fresh and you’re hungry to be on the ice and start playing again.”

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Darling had enough trial-by-fire moments last season that nothing should surprise him entering this one. If there was any question of Darling’s ability to handle the pressure, it was answered in that first-round series against the Nashville Predators.

“I had a lot of growing experiences last season, whether it was getting multiple starts in a row or not playing for a long time and then having to go in. And the playoffs were obviously huge for me,” Darling said. “That gives me confidence going forward, to know I can do it. I’ve done it before, so I just have to build off that.”

Speaking of confidence, considering how much Quenneville has in Crawford and Darling, don’t be surprised if the starts are more divided between the two.

“It’s not etched in stone how much or who’s going to play, but I think we expect them both to be regularly playing and keep them both fresh as possible as well,” Quenneville said. “We like our goaltending situation.”

The Blackhawks had their share of summer changes. Goaltending wasn’t one of them, and the Blackhawks are assured in that familiarity.

“I just think whoever’s playing gives us the confidence we need in our defensive game. If something goes wrong, they’ll do everything they can to stop the puck,” Marcus Kruger said. “They just give us that confidence, and we know they’ll give us a good chance to win every night. That’s huge to have two goalies like that.”

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goaltender Ray Emery was identified as the victim in an early morning drowning on Sunday at the Hamilton Harbour, Hamilton Police confirmed. He was 35.

According to the Hamilton Spectator, Emery and his friends jumped in the water around 6:30 a.m., but Emery never resurfaced. His body was recovered later in the afternoon.

Emery played in the NHL for 11 seasons, two of which came with the Blackhawks from 2011-13, where he served as a backup goaltender to Corey Crawford.

In 2013, he teammated up with Crawford to win the William M. Jennings Trophy, awarded to the goaltender(s) with the fewest goals against in a single season, before going on to capture his first Stanley Cup. During that season, Emery went 17-1-0 with a 1.94 goals against average, .922 save percentage and three shutouts.

The Blackhawks issued this statement following the confirmation:

The Chicago Blackhawks organization was deeply saddened to hear of Ray Emery’s passing. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. The Blackhawks will fondly remember Ray as a fierce competitor, a good teammate and a Stanley Cup champion.

The hockey community took to Twitter to offer their condolences when news began to spread:

Thank you, Marian Hossa: An ode to one of the best Blackhawks ever

Thank you, Marian Hossa: An ode to one of the best Blackhawks ever

When the Blackhawks drafted Jonathan Toews third overall in 2006 and Patrick Kane with the No. 1 pick the following year, it was a sign that the dark skies were clearing in Chicago. Things really started to change when Rocky Wirtz took over as chairman following the death of his father Bill in September of 2007, and one of the first decisions he made was to televise all 82 games.

The fans were coming back.

For only the second time in 11 years, the Blackhawks finished above .500 in 2007-08 but missed the playoffs by three points, a season in which Kane won the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie.

The following year Joel Quenneville took over as head coach after only three games to provide some coaching experience behind the bench for a young team on the rise. It resulted in a 104-point season and ended in a Conference Finals berth at the hands of the arch-rival Detroit Red Wings in five games.

The Blackhawks were ready to make that step into championship contenders. They just needed someone to put them over the edge.

Enter Marian Hossa.

On July 1 of 2009, he committed to the Blackhawks for 12 years worth $62.8 million. He bought into the long-term vision and wanted to be a part of something special for many years to come.

Was he ever.

In his first game as a member of the Blackhawks, Hossa scored two goals in a 7-2 road victory against San Jose after missing the first month and a half of the season with a shoulder injury. It was at that moment where you saw what kind of powerhouse the Blackhawks could be and would become with a full lineup and future Hall of Fame winger added to a mixture of franchise-changing players scratching the surface.

Fast forward to Game 5 of the 2010 quarterfinals. You know how it goes. Series is tied 2-2. The Blackhawks trail 4-3 late in the third period. Extra attacker is on. How many times have we seen this? The Blackhawks were surely going to find a way to tie it up ... and then Hossa is sent to the box with 1:03 to play in regulation. A five-minute major boarding penalty.

Dagger...

Not so fast. 

Patrick Kane went on to score arguably the biggest goal in Blackhawks history, a shorthanded one that evened it up with 13.6 seconds to go. United Center is up for grabs. But there are still four minutes left to kill off on the penalty once overtime starts, which Hossa once called "the longest four minutes of my life." 

In a span of nine seconds following the penalty kill, Hossa jumped on the ice from the box, darted straight for the net and buried home what was the second-biggest goal in franchise history to put the Blackhawks up 3-2 in the series. Two nights later Hossa assisted on three goals and the Blackhawks eliminated the Nashville Predators in their barn.

The rest is history.

Who knows if the Blackhawks rally to win that series if they don't tie it up or win it in overtime. Who knows if they break through the next year. Who knows if that core group even remains together. The course of the franchise could've changed that night.

Instead, Hossa was handed the Stanley Cup for the first time in his career on June 9, 2010 from Jonathan Toews, who couldn't give it to him fast enough after he came up on the losing end in consecutive appearances with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings in 2008 and 2009.

Hossa would add two more titles to his résumé with the Blackhawks in 2013 and 2015, which almost certainly locked up his legacy as one of the all-time greats and his eventual next stop: The Hockey Hall of Fame. The wait was worth it.

"I was hoping to get one coming to Chicago and now I’ve got three," Hossa said following the 2015 Stanley Cup win. "What a feeling." 

The Blackhawks don't win three Stanley Cups without Hossa, who will go down as arguably the greatest free-agent signing in Chicago sports history.

On behalf of the city of Chicago: Thank you, 81.