Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Paliotta debuts, Darling starting vs. Avs

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Blackhawks: Paliotta debuts, Darling starting vs. Avs

DENVER – Michael Paliotta will make his NHL debut and Scott Darling will get the start in goal when the Blackhawks complete their regular-season schedule against the Colorado Avalanche tonight.

The Blackhawks didn't have to wait for this game to find out their playoff fate: with St. Louis’ victory over Minnesota this afternoon, the Blackhawks will face Nashville in the first round. Dates and times will be announced later.

[MORE: Blackhawks not intimidated by starting playoffs on the road]

Now with all that settled, do the Blackhawks rest a player or two? Coach Joel Quenneville said he “could” do that if little rode on this game, which is the case now. Still, the Blackhawks have just one extra defenseman and forward, so there won’t be many regulars taking the night off.

For Paliotta, it’s a chance to play in a game that could very well have some meaning. Either way, it means plenty to him.

“Obviously, I’ve worked really hard my whole life for an opportunity like this,” he said following morning skate. “At the same time it’s another hockey game. Everyone’s been saying to just play your game. Obviously I’m excited, anxious, but it should be a good night.”

Corey Crawford will get this final regular-season game off, which Quenneville said was the plan all along. That means Crawford’s next start will be about a week after his previous one (this past Thursday vs. the Blues).

“That was our mindset, Darls was going to play,” Quenneville said. “He’s won some big games for us on the road. You look back at that Rangers game, none bigger than that. He gets the start and Crow gets the rest to get ready [for the playoffs].”

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

Crawford didn’t object to the decision.

“It’s good: get some rest and make sure that the energy is at 100 percent, not that isn’t anyway. But it’s always nice to get a little rest before it starts,” he said. “I feel really good about my game, pretty strong. There [are] always some things you’ve got to adjust or adjust for against certain teams. Right now I feel probably the best I felt all year."

Briefly

— Patrick Kane continues to skate back in Chicago but has still not been cleared for contact. Asked if Kane could return for the first round of the playoffs, Quenneville said, “tough to say. I love his progress that he’s putting forth, he feels good. It’s up to the clearance and we’ll go from there.”

— Marcus Kruger should be back tonight against the Avalanche. Kruger missed Thursday’s game against the Blues due to illness.

— Brad Richards and Kimmo Timonen, both out with upper-body injuries, are skating back in Chicago.

— David Rundblad looked to be the possible healthy scratch on defense tonight.

How Blackhawks are trying to stay positive despite postseason-high 12 iron shots 

How Blackhawks are trying to stay positive despite postseason-high 12 iron shots 

Goal posts apparently aren't kind to the city of Chicago in the playoffs. (Nobody needs a reminder of the double-doink).

So if you hear a ringing sound, you’re not alone. 

The Blackhawks are six games into their postseason run and have hit 12 iron shots so far — 10 off the post, two off the crossbar. Twelve! That’s an average of two per game and a pace of 164 across an 82-game season. For reference, they hit the iron 58 times — 48 off the post, 10 off the crossbar — in 70 games during the regular season.

No team has hit more iron than the Blackhawks (12) since the NHL's 24-team Return to Play tournament started and it's not even close. The next highest? Toronto at six. An incredible gap.

"It's always tough hitting the post," said Drake Caggiula, who's hit one crossbar this postseason. "You’re close to scoring a goal but that’s hockey. It’s all about bounces. Sometimes you get them, sometimes you don’t, you've just got to stick with it. It's just something where you've got to keep shooting the puck and trust that you're going to get your chances and make sure that you try and capitalize. But hitting the post is never a fun feeling unless it's going in the net. We've just got to make sure it doesn’t discourage us."

Here's a list of where each team sits when it comes to iron shots, through Thursday's games:

  • 12: Blackhawks
  • 6: Toronto
  • 5: Boston
  • 4: Calgary, Colorado, Columbus, Montreal, N.Y. Rangers, Vegas
  • 3: Florida, N.Y. Islanders, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh
  • 2: Carolina, Dallas, Edmonton, Nashville, Tampa Bay, Washington, Winnipeg
  • 1: Vancouver
  • 0: Arizona, Minnesota, St. Louis


The Blackhawks hit five posts in Game 3 against the Edmonton Oilers, but it was easier to swallow because it came in a win. It wasn't so easy in a Game 2 overtime loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday.

Patrick Kane, who leads all skaters this postseason with three shots off the post, hit another one with 43 seconds left in the first period on Thursday when the Blackhawks were trailing 2-0. He beat Robin Lehner five-hole, but the puck rang off the pipe and bounced out. 

You could see the frustration in his face:

The Blackhawks did, however, get a nice break on Dominik Kubalik's power-play goal that tied the game at 2-2. His shot went off the inside of the post and in.

But the one that kept Chicago awake is the crossbar shot in overtime. 

Just 1:53 into extra time, Dylan Strome fired a 35-foot wrist shot from the right faceoff circle and rang it off the bottom part of the crossbar. He lifted his hands in the air thinking it was a goal. It was centimeters away from going bar down but bounced out instead.

The Blackhawks are certainly getting their chances. It's challenging to stick with it when the puck luck isn't going your way, but you have to earn your bounces and the Blackhawks must keep pushing through. That's the message.

"We've had our chances," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "Sometimes it's like that. The key is, how long can we stick with it? How long can we be persistent when we face adversity? We've faced some adversity here over the first couple games. Do we have the character to overcome it? It's an opportunity for our guys.

"You play all year to be in these games, so now we're here and we've faced some adversity. So what? Just keep playing and believe in what we're doing and believe in the guys in the room and we're going to give them a run."

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Former Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner remains unbeaten with Vegas Golden Knights

Former Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner remains unbeaten with Vegas Golden Knights

On Thursday in Game 2, the Blackhawks tested Robin Lehner more than they did in Game 1 of the first round Stanley Cup Playoff series, when he only had to save 19 of 20 shots.

The Hawks were able to put 25 pucks on the Golden Knights' net, with three getting past Lehner to take the game to overtime where Vegas would triumph to take a 2-0 series lead.

"It was a little bit of a weird game," Lehner said following his Game 2 win. "There was not that much to do and I thought they had some good chances. I thought that Chicago played really well. Everyone keeps saying they're (the) underdog, but you look at their team: the experience, the skill... it's Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane out there. It's a lot of skill and they're world class players, so when they get opportunities it's hard. I got to look at the tape, I think I can be a little bit better, but a win's a win."

Related: Former Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner's birthday cake is ureal

With the victory, Lehner remains unbeaten in the 2020 postseason (4-0) and unbeaten as a Golden Knight. 

The 29-year-old netminder went 3-0-0 with 1.67 goals-against average and .940 save percentage with the Knights during the regular season ahead of the NHL Pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 12. 

Related: Robin Lehner opens up on getting traded by Blackhawks

Lehner was traded from Chicago to Vegas ahead of Feb. 24's trade deadline. He was 16-10-5 as a Hawk this season with a 3.01 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage prior to the move.

Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, a three-time Stanley Cup champ with the Pittsburgh Penguins, may have lost the starter job to Lehner, at least for now. Fleury was only in net for one Golden Knights' round-robin game, with Lehner starting the rest of the postseason contests so far.

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Blackhawks news and analysis.