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


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.”


Four takeaways: 'Vintage' Corey Crawford steals two points for Blackhawks


Four takeaways: 'Vintage' Corey Crawford steals two points for Blackhawks

COLUMBUS — Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Saturday:

1. Corey Crawford steals the show

The Blackhawks had no business winning this game. They were being outshot 28-15 through two periods, committed four penalties and gave up 18 high-danger chances in the game. 

But Crawford bailed out his team like he often has done in the past, and was zoned in from the moment the puck dropped. He finished with 37 saves on 38 shots for a save percentage of .974, picking up his first win since Dec. 17, 2017.

"Yeah, I felt good," Crawford said. "I think everyone was playing hard, rebounds, taking away sticks. That was a great effort by everyone."

"He was standing on his head for us," Patrick Kane said. "As Q would say, that’s a goalie win for us."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "That was vintage Crow."

2. Tic-tac-toe leads to go-ahead goal

The Blue Jackets were clearly the better team through two periods. The Blackhawks were fortunate to go into second intermission with the game still tied at 1-1.

The next goal was crucial, and they got it thanks to a Marcus Kruger redirection goal. The next one was the dagger, a beautiful give-and-go play by Brent Seabrook and Kane, who buried home a wide open net to give the Blackhawks a 3-1 lead with 4:14 left in regulation.

Was Kane expecting Seabrook to pass it back?

"No. Not a chance," Kane said laughing. "That’s his wheelhouse, coming right down there. He scores a lot of goals from that area. Saw it was like a 2-on-2, he was coming late, he jumped in the play on the first goal, did a great job, jumped in the play on that goal. Made a great pass. When I saw it come back, I just tried to stay patient, settle it down and make sure I hit the net, because I knew I had the whole open net."

3. Busy night for PK

The Blackhawks penalty kill was very busy. It was also on it's A-game, partly because their best penalty killer was Crawford.

The Blackhawks spent 6:31 of the first 40 minutes killing penalties, allowing 11 shots total on it. But most importantly, they killed off all four penalties.

"We had some tough clears, but I thought we did some good things," Quenneville said. "We withstood some extended PK zone time there and found a way to keep us in the game. Obviously that next goal was huge and that second period was a big part of them having so much zone time, keeping us in our end. We'll say, hey good job, but Crow was the best penalty killer tonight."

4. Catching up with Kane on Artemi Panarin

Kane and Panarin spent only two seasons together, but they brought Blackhawks fans out of their seats on a nightly basis and it was amazing to watch the instant on-ice chemistry they shared. And most of it was non-verbal, which made it even more impressive. They were always on the same wavelength.

"Sometimes it takes time to build some chemistry but that was one of those things where it was like, I don't want to say instant chemistry, but after one or two preseason games we kind of new that maybe something special was going to happen," Kane told NBC Sports Chicago. "I think he scored in his first game in the NHL, we had a really good game, we had the puck a lot, we sensed that this could be a fun way to play hockey."

Off the ice, Kane said Panarin would use Google translate on his phone to communicate while Kane would try using a Russian accent while saying English words.

The two of them got a chance to hang out for a little bit on Friday and Kane still keeps tabs on his former linemate.

"I always really enjoy watching him," Kane said. "If we have an off night or something, he's a really fun player to watch."

Blackhawks and Blue Jackets both going through own challenges of Artemi Panarin and Brandon Saad trade


Blackhawks and Blue Jackets both going through own challenges of Artemi Panarin and Brandon Saad trade

COLUMBUS — The Blackhawks and Blue Jackets blockbuster trade from the 2017 offseason is always a hot topic in Chicago when things aren't going great. It especially is when the two teams square off against each other, like Saturday at Nationwide Arena for the first time this season.

If it wasn't already apparent in Chicago, Artemi Panarin has emerged as a real NHL superstar and is set for a giant payday when he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2019. He set a Blue Jackets record with 82 points in a single season and has nine points (three goals, six assists) through six games this season.

Brandon Saad, on the other hand, had a challenging first year back with the Blackhawks in 2017-18 after netting only 35 points in 82 games and is off to a slow start this year as well with zero goals and two assists through six games. After a demotion to the fourth line, he was close to being a healthy scratch on Thursday, which only magnifies where things are at as the two get ready to clash.

But Saad was never going to be able to replace Panarin's offensive production. Everybody knows that. Yet, the offensive comparisons will always be there as a barometer and that's something Saad doesn't think about, no matter how much fans talk about it.

"I don't think I do it," he said. "We're different players. He's a great player. Fans are going to do whatever comparisons they want, but at the end of the day you've got to be true to yourself and do what you bring to the table. He's a great player around the league. You can see his highlights and his goals, he's definitely a special player. But at the end of the day I've got confidence in my abilities too. We both bring different attributes, but they're going to make comparisons regardless."

A big reason why the Blackhawks reacquired Saad, other than his ability to play a 200-foot game, is because he carries a $6 million cap hit through 2020-21, which is two years more than Panarin at the same cap hit. (It's also important to note that the Blackhawks hoped they were getting a reliable, young backup goaltender in Anton Forsberg, but the injury to Corey Crawford thrust him into a role he wasn't exactly prepared for.)

It's not all rainbows for Columbus right now regarding where things stand with Panarin, who has made it clear he's not ready to sign a long-term extension. All signs point to the 26-year-old winger hitting the market, putting the Blue Jackets in a tricky situation ahead of the trade deadline. The Blackhawks very well could have found themselves in this position, too, had a deal not been made.

Both sides are dealing with their own challenges of the trade. Saad is still a key piece to the Blackhawks' puzzle and they're hoping to get more out of him, for no other reason than the team's overall success.

"You want to have success regardless of who you're playing for, who you're traded for, things like that," Saad said. "Naturally, just as competitors, you want to bring that excitement and you want to have success with the team and personally."