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.”

Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch


Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch

Brandon Saad played a majority of last season on the first line, started this season on the second to change things up, got demoted to the fourth by the fifth game, and could find himself out of the lineup in the sixth.

Before the Blackhawks hit the ice for practice on Monday, the 25-year-old winger found a white jersey hanging in his stall. That's usually reserved for players who are injured — Andreas Martinsen (back) was the only other player wearing one — or players who are on the outside looking in, which appears to be Saad right now considering he was not part of the four-line rotation.

"I don't think anyone wants to be wearing white around here," he said. "But it is what it is and there's nothing you can do but keep trying to improve. It's their job to make the call to put the best team out there to win hockey games."

Known for being even-keeled through the ups and downs, Saad expressed disappointment about the possibility of being a healthy scratch on Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes. He didn't exactly show that emotion following his demotion to the fourth line, perhaps out of respect to the players he was playing with by noting how it brings balance.

But he did on Monday, and it was the first time we've really seen some sort of emotion out of him.

"Everyone makes mistakes and things aren't always going to go your way but to be out of the lineup, a little surprised today," Saad said. "But it is what it is. ... No one wants to be out of the lineup. That's never fun regardless of who you are."

When asked to pinpoint what's gone wrong, Saad said he wasn't the right person to ask.

"I think you got to ask him that," he said, referring to Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff. "It's his calls. For me, you can talk pros and cons as much as you want but just trying to go out there and compete and win hockey games. We've won a few here, I know every game has gone to overtime so they've been close. Nothing was said to me about lineup change or anything like that. You just come in and you see your jersey and you go out there and you play."

So Quenneville was asked.

"Just expect more," he said. "That's the situation."

Is his mindset in the right place?

"I think he's fine," Quenneville said. "His mindset is what it is. Whether it's urgency or passion, coming up with loose pucks in those areas is going to be the difference."

The Blackhawks sending a message shouldn't only be directed at Saad. It also serves as a reminder to his teammates and is important to note for the younger guys about earning your ice time.

"I don't really know where the coaches are coming from so I'm not going to comment on that," Jonathan Toews said respectfully. "But [Saad] has been doing some good things and I think it's good for all of us to know what's going on there because if [Saad] can get his ice time taken away, then so can a lot of guys, myself included. So we all want to play well and have team success."

The Blackhawks need Saad to return to form quickly because he's crucial to their overall success. There's no debate about that. It's why the thought of Saad, who played in all 82 games last season, serving as the 13th forward is frustrating for everyone involved.

It hasn't been a problem in the past, but now it's becoming one because of the Blackhawks' aspirations of getting back to the playoffs and their dependence on their top players.

"I don’t think it’s an issue," Quenneville said. "We just expect more out of him."

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

The Blackhawks made sports history on Saturday after they appeared in their fifth straight overtime game to start the season.

No NHL team has done that since the league introduced a regular-season overtime period in 1983-84, per the Elias Sports Bureau. It also has never happened in the history of MLB, NBA or NFL, showing just how crazy this early season run has been for the Blackhawks, who have rallied from all five games and have come away with wins in three of them.

"We’ve had five games, every one of them have been extremely intense and the game’s been on the line from start to finish," coach Joel Quenneville said following a 4-3 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues. "Our group’s been competitive this year, the guys have been working hard for one another. I don’t know how many games we’ve been down in the third period, and coming back to win is special."

The Blackhawks appeared in 17 overtime/shootout games last season and won seven of them. They are one of six teams this season that have yet to pick up a regulation win.

On a separate note, Saturday marked the eighth time in Blackhawks history that one player scored a tying goal in the third period and scored in overtime (Alex DeBrincat), according to the NHL's PR department. It's the second time it's happened this year for the Blackhawks, with Jonathan Toews the other on Oct. 6 against St. Louis.