Blackhawks: Corey Crawford regrouping, happy for Scott Darling


Blackhawks: Corey Crawford regrouping, happy for Scott Darling

Corey Crawford joined a few other teammates for an optional practice at Johnny’s IceHouse West, working to rekindle his game that fared so well through most of the regular season.

“The only thing I can do now is be ready in case I go back in,” said Crawford, who will back up Scott Darling when the Blackhawks host the Nashville Predators in Game 4 of their first-round series. “Other than that, encourage the guys, stay positive and make sure the body language is good. Everything’s positive around here. There’s a nice feel around the room, nothing negative.”

Crawford is taking the situation well outwardly – he could be handling it the same inwardly, too, for all we know. Of course he’s frustrated; no competitor at this level would be happy to be taking a backseat. But Crawford said the team’s continued playoff success outweighs what he thinks of coach Joel Quenneville’s decision to go with Darling.

“We’re up 2-1 in the series; nothing else matters,” he said. “It’s the wins. Nothing else counts.”

[MORE HAWKS: Blackhawks riding with Scott Darling in Game 4 vs. Predators]

Crawford got off to a so-so start in Game 1 and was pulled after the first period for Darling. On that night, the choice was as much about the team’s shoddy performance in front of Crawford as it was the goaltender. But things went from mediocre to bad in Game 2, when Crawford allowed all of the goals in the team’s 6-2 loss to the Predators.

“Obviously there’s lots of room for improvement,” Crawford said with a little laugh. “I said after Game 2 I started feeling better in that game, then they got some chances late that just squeaked through. Some stuff, obviously, [that] I made saves throughout the years, those ones went by. But I’m starting to see the puck better.

“I didn’t get much time in Game 1,” Crawford continued. “I was off a little bit – good first shot and the other was a tip, another misplay and then I’m out of the game and have to regroup, try to come back in Game 2 quick. It got away from me. Now it’s trying to see the puck and get that feeling back. I’m working hard to get that edge I had before.”

For now, however, it looks like it’s Darling’s job to lose. Darling stopped another 35 shots on Sunday afternoon in the Blackhawks’ 4-2 victory over Nashville. Darling said Crawford has been fully supportive throughout this season, including now.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

“I mean, he’s been awesome to me. He’s been like a mentor to me, teaching me tons,” Darling said. “He has tons of experience here and I’ve been very limited. I can’t thank him enough for the life and goalie lessons he’s shared with me.”

Crawford said, despite frustration in his own game, he’s happy for Darling.

“He’s gone through a lot to get here and he’s been playing awesome. How can you not feel good for him?” Crawford said. “I have to encourage him, keep pushing him to be his best.”

Crawford has gone through plenty of ups and downs in his NHL career. Right now, he’s working on what he can control, and waiting for when he gets the chance again.

“I’ve gone through a lot of things, especially on our playoff run when we won,” he said. “There’s a lot you have to go through mentally as a goalie, a starter in this league. It’s just another thing that will only make me stronger going forward.”

Blackhawks can't match Oilers' intensity as Connor McDavid leads way in Game 2

Blackhawks can't match Oilers' intensity as Connor McDavid leads way in Game 2

Let's be honest: The Blackhawks dominated the Edmonton Oilers in Game 1. The final score was 6-4, but there was never a doubt as to which team was in the driver’s seat from start to finish.

So going into Game 2, the Blackhawks knew the Oilers would come out desperate.

"We’d be naïve," head coach Jeremy Colliton said before the game, "if we don’t think they’re going to throw everything they have at us."

And that's what the Oilers did. To be more exact: That's what Connor McDavid did.

After scoring 2:34 into Game 1, the two-time Art Ross Trophy winner scored 19 seconds into Game 2 and then again 3:46 later to give the Oilers a 2-0 lead before the Blackhawks even knew what hit them. He completed the hat trick in the second period, giving him four goals through two games so far.

It was clear from the first shift Game 2 would have a different feeling than Game 1. The Oilers, this time, were in control and they followed No. 97's lead.

"They were much better as a team than they were in Game 1, so give them credit there," Jonathan Toews said following a 6-3 loss on Monday. "And to add to the fact, I don't think we made things as hard on them as we did in the first game. So everything we did in that first game, we've got to step all that team game up a notch.

"McDavid's obviously a focus for me, and when we're not making things hard enough for them offensively, then we get ourselves in spots where we end up taking penalties, and you know what happens on the power play, a guy like McDavid's going to make you play. A couple times early in the game, we give him grade A chances and he's not making any mistakes. You know what we're going to get out of him every game, so we've got to be better on him."

You just knew McDavid wouldn’t let his team fall behind 2-0 in a series that easily, especially as the No. 5 seed in their own building. He certainly looked extra motivated to be a factor at even strength after being shut down in Game 1 — all three of his points came on the power play.

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This was a virtual must-win for the Oilers. Only one team in NHL history has overcome a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-five series: New York Islanders in 1985 after losing Games 1 and 2 in overtime to the Washington Capitals then rallying to win the next three.

"Connor led the way," Oilers forward Tyler Ennis said. "He set the tone for us and gave us a spark. That's exactly what we needed, and everybody followed."

Credit the Blackhawks for clawing back and showing the kind of resiliency that helped them win Game 1. They fell behind 2-0 and tied it up at 3-3 before McDavid's hat trick put the Oilers back in front 4-3.

The game got away from the Blackhawks in the third period, where they were out-chanced 10-1. But that what was bound to happen for a team that was playing catch-up all game.

In the end, the Blackhawks won't sugarcoat their overall performance. It was no secret the Oilers would come out hungry, and the Blackhawks simply didn't match their intensity.

"Ultimately, we didn’t play to the level we need to to beat this team," Colliton said. "We knew going into this series it would be a challenge. ... It’s a 1-1 series, I’m sure no one picked us to sweep them. They won a game, now we have to find a way to be better on Wednesday, and we will."

Former Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner kneels with Ryan Reaves during National Anthem

Former Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner kneels with Ryan Reaves during National Anthem

On Monday, former Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner, currently with the Vegas Golden Knights, knelt during the National Anthem with teammate Ryan Reaves before Vegas' round-robin game against the Dallas Stars.

Stars forwards Tyler Seguin and Jason Dickinson joined Lehner and Reaves in taking a knee.

The Associated Press' Stephen Whyno reported Reaves approached Seguin during pregame warmups to inform him that the Golden Knights teammates intended to kneel during the National Anthem. Seguin told his teammates on Dallas in the locker room and Dickinson wanted to join.

"I made a mistake once, putting a Trump sticker on my mask. That is something I regret now... At the end of the day it's about human rights, not politics," Lehner told the media following the game.

The Golden Knights won the contest 5-3 with Lehner as the starting goalie.

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