Blackhawks: Scott Darling gets the start in Game 3


Blackhawks: Scott Darling gets the start in Game 3

Scott Darling’s 42-stop performance in Game 1 earned him plenty of praise and accolades for an incredible relief performance.

That outing, coupled with another rough one from CoreyCrawford, have now earned Darling his first NHL postseason start.

Coach Joel Quenneville said he’ll go with Darling when the Blackhawks host the Nashville Predators in Game 3 of their first-round series at 2 p.m. Sunday.

“We’re going with Darling on performance,” Quenneville said via conference call on Saturday afternoon. “Obviously it’s a tough choice, knowing both had consideration. Scotty’s coming off a spectacular outing and his play is deserving of a start at home. He deserves it based on how we’ll he’s played.”

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Darling came in to start the second period in Game 1 after Crawford allowed three goals on 12 shots in the first period that night. He was stellar, making many critical stops while the Blackhawks rallied for a 4-3 double-overtime victory.

Still, Quenneville said choosing Crawford for Game 2 was an easy decision. Crawford got the Blackhawks through some big games this season, especially when Patrick Kane first went down with a fractured clavicle. ButCrawford struggled, in Game 2 more than in Game 1, leading to this choice. Quenneville said after Game 2 that, “we’ll do what gives us our best chance,” so Darling gets the chance.

Darling, speaking prior to Game 2 in Nashville, said he understood why he didn’t play Game 2.

“At the end of the day it’s about winning games and the coaching staff knows a little bit more about winning than I do,” he said. “There’s always a want to start. I’m just thrilled to be a part of it, happy I got any minutes at all.”

It’s been a postseason about-face for Crawford, who ended the regular season with a 2.27 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage (sixth best in the NHL). But Crawford, coupled with a defense that’s still giving up way too much, struggled in Game 2. He allowed six goals on 35 shots.

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Goaltending coach Jimmy Waite told Crawford he isn’t starting on Sunday. Quenneville said will talk to Crawford face to face tomorrow.

“I would expect crow to handle it like a pro,” Quenneville said. “I think he’d be understanding, knowing you have competitive instinct and want to be there. I’m sure he’s probably not happy but can’t say exactly how he handled it.”

Quenneville said he’ll continue to monitor the goaltending on a game-by-game basis. Darling is the Blackhawks goaltender right now. It’s a tremendous opportunity but his work in Game 1 earned it for him.

“When you go to these tough decisions and weigh them, you look at long term. It’s not like [Crawford] is never going to play again. He’s a big part of the team,” Quenneville said. “Things change instantly in our game. Here we are with a chance at a different decision for Game 3. That’s the business we’re in. It’s performance driven a lot of times this one is strictly because Scott’s played outstanding in the series and it’s been the differential.”

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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