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.
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.”