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Blackhawks: Corey Crawford to start over Scott Darling in Game 2

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Blackhawks: Corey Crawford to start over Scott Darling in Game 2

NASHVILLE – Coach Joel Quenneville said it was going to be an easy decision.

Scott Darling had played masterfully in relief of Corey Crawford in Game 1, stopping 42 shots as the Blackhawks came back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Nashville Predators 4-3 in double overtime. Quenneville praised the backup goalie for playing that well in a pressure-filled situation.

But Crawford is the No. 1 goaltender. He’s the guy who’s gotten the Blackhawks to this point. And he’s the guy who will be back in goal the next game.

[MORE HAWKS: Goalie switch sparks Blackhawks to double-OT win in Game 1]

Crawford will start on Friday when the Blackhawks face the Predators in Game 2 of their first-round series. Quenneville said there was a difficult choice in all of this, but it had nothing to do with figuring out who would start on Friday.

“It was probably tougher to pull him out last night,” Quenneville said. “He’s our starting goalie, he’s been our strength all year long. It was one [bad] period, one collectively as a team, goaltending all the way out through forwards. We look forward to him getting back in tomorrow. This [decision] was easy.”

Crawford was one of the first Blackhawks to skate over to Darling and congratulate him on his relief appearance. He said Wednesday’s benching will not affect him as he prepares for Friday.

“It’s the same as it always is,” Crawford said. “That was a tough period. Those things happen. I got a free pass off it; the guys played wellafter and Darls was awesome. It’s nice to get a win after leaving a game like that.”

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Crawford was pulled after allowing three goals on 12 shots in the first period, when the Predators took a 3-0 lead. It wasn’t all on Crawford. The second goal fell on him but the Blackhawks, who were a mess in front of him for the first 20 minutes, didn’t help. Still, the Blackhawks needed a spark, so the change was made. It’s not an unusual move in the regular season; in the playoffs, however, it’s a bold one.

“There [are] probably a lot of reasons that might go into it, but I felt at that stage, you’re down three nothing, they scored two late goals in the period, let’s do something different,” Quenneville said. “Let’s try something and it turned out that Scott Darling came in and played one of those games you’ll never forget.”

Crawford usually responds well when he’s had mediocre-to-bad outings. He called himself out in last year’s first round after playing poorly vs. St. Louis in Game 2. He recorded a shutout in Game 3. Crawford played a big part in the Blackhawks’ success this season. He’ll look to get back to that on Friday.

“You have to have a short memory as a goalie. There are a lot of crazy things that happen, bad goals or whatever. It’s all part of the game and really you have to always be thinking of the next shot and not let whatever happened bother you,” Crawford said. “I’ve learned a lot in my career, had a lot of stuff happen before. Things like this, they happen once in a while. You just have to keep battling and keep working hard.”

 

2010 Hawks Rewind: 3 things we noticed in Blackhawks' Game 2 win over Sharks

2010 Hawks Rewind: 3 things we noticed in Blackhawks' Game 2 win over Sharks

In honor of the 10-year anniversary of the 2010 Stanley Cup team, NBC Sports Chicago is re-airing each of the Blackhawks' 16 postseason wins from the run that ended a 49-year championship drought. You can join the conversation using #HawksRewind on social media.

After stealing Game 1 in San Jose, the Blackhawks took care of business in Game 2 by beating the Sharks 4-2 to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the Western Conference Final. Here are three things we noticed in the win:

1. Building a cushion

You knew the Sharks were going to come out hungry after losing Game 1 in their own building, and the Blackhawks certainly matched that intensity. 

After Andrew Ladd broke the scoreless tie at the 12:48 mark of the first period, Dustin Byfuglien and Jonathan Toews followed suit in the second to put the Blackhawks in front 3-0. It was crucial for the visiting team not to give the Sharks any momentum, and it wasn't until 31:08 into the game before the home team finally got on the board.

2. A make-up game on special teams?

The Blackhawks had zero power plays in Game 1, so they didn't get a chance of testing a Sharks team that had the fifth-ranked penalty kill percentage (85.0) in the regular season. But that changed in Game 2.

The Sharks racked up 22 total penalty minutes and committed six minor penalties, two of which came with 18 seconds left in the game that saw two Blackhawks get sent off as well. The Blackhawks committed only one minor penalty in the previous 59:42.

Both teams converted on the power play once, but the Blackhawks staying out of the box for the majority of the game certainly played a role in preventing the Sharks from getting within striking distance or taking control early.

3. Duncan Keith's strong performance

He didn't garner as much attention as others, but Keith was solid for the Blackhawks in Game 2. He recorded two assists, six shot attempts (three on goal), four blocked shots and led all skaters with 30:21 of ice time. No other skater logged more than 27:56.

Keith was pointless in his first five postseason games, but had nine points (one goal, eight assists) in his next nine.

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NHL 20 sim: Blackhawks close strong late season push with playoff berth

NHL 20 sim: Blackhawks close strong late season push with playoff berth

It all comes down to one game for the Blackhawks. A win at Madison Square Garden earns them a playoff bid as the second Wild Card team and a first round showdown with the St. Louis Blues. A loss, and it’ll be a third consecutive season watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs from home.

The Rangers come into this game having been eliminated from playoff contention, but with plenty to play for. This could very well be Henrik Lundqvist’s last start in a Ranger uniform and there’s no doubt he and his teammates will be motivated to send the legend out on a high note. In addition, you can bet Artemi Panarin would love nothing more than to play spoiler against his former club. Will the Blueshirts bring the Blackhawks down to earth, or will Chicago punch their return ticket to the postseason?

Blackhawks at Rangers (4/4)

Result: Blackhawks win 4-2

Three Stars:

First Star: Kirby Dach (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG)

Second Star: Alex Nylander (1 G, 1 A)

Third Star: Alex DeBrincat (1 G, 1 A)

The youth movement came into full form in Saturday’s win in Manhattan. While the Hawks young players stepped up vs. the Islanders, they doubled down on Saturday. All three Blackhawks goals were scored by players aged 22 and younger and the game’s first star was the 19-year-old Dach. Secondary scoring and role players are vital come playoff time, so the youth contributions for Chicago down the stretch bodes well for their chances in the playoffs.

Scoring summary

First period

4:48: Jesper Fast (R. Strome, T. DeAngelo) 1-0

9:35 PP: Alex DeBrincat (A. Boqvist, K. Dach) 1-1

Second period

5:30: PP Alex Nylander (D. Kubalik, B. Saad) 2-1

12:34: Phil Di Guiseppe (K. Kakko, F. Chytil) 2-2

9:37 PP: Kirby Dach (A. DeBrincat, D. Keith) 3-2

Third period

19:22 EN: Slater Koekkoek (A. Nylander, P. Kane) 4-2

Box score

Shots on Goal:

Chicago: 27

New York: 25

The Blackhawks picked up two points at MSG using a similar formula from their win in Brooklyn: special teams success and a sound defensive effort. For the second straight game, Chicago limited their opponent to under 30 shots on goal after allowing 35.1 shots on goal per game during the regular season.

Goalies:

Corey Crawford: 23/25 (.920 SV%)

Henrik Lundqvist: 24/27 (.889 SV%)

Corey Crawford stepping up in big situations is something Hawks fans have grown accustomed to over the past decade, and the win over New York was no different. Neither goal was really his fault. He was screened by his own teammate on the first and a defensive breakdown resulted in the second. The Blackhawks will need Crawford at his best to have any chance in the first round against the Blues.

Power play:

Chicago: 3-4

New York: 0-1

After a pair of power play goals against the Islanders, the Hawks were even better against the Rangers, cashing in on three of four chances. The penalty kill stepped up as well, shutting down the Rangers in their lone power play chance. Both special teams units seem to be clicking at the right time for Jeremy Colliton’s crew.

Notable Blackhawks performances:

Adam Boqvist (Assist)

Duncan Keith (Assist)

Brandon Saad (Assist)

The pairing of Keith and Boqvist has led the way for the Blackhawks blue line in their defensive renaissance. Both factored in on the scoring in Saturday’s win, but they’ve been the top pairing for a unit that’s playing their best hockey of the season. Duncan Keith is showing flashes of his Norris Trophy-winning self from years past, and Boqvist is proving doubters of his defensive abilities wrong while also showing off his offensive skill. No doubt the 19-year-old Boqvist is benefitting from playing alongside a legend. 

Noticeable absences from the score sheet the last two games are Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Toews registered just one assist, while Kane got only two secondary assists on empty-net goals. The defense stepping up, power play clicking, and youth movement showing promise are important to a playoff run. That said, you can surely expect Kane and Toews to step up in the playoffs. If not, it will be hard to see the Hawks having much of a chance against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blues.