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.”

Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch


Wake-up call? Brandon Saad 'surprised' about possibility of being a healthy scratch

Brandon Saad played a majority of last season on the first line, started this season on the second to change things up, got demoted to the fourth by the fifth game, and could find himself out of the lineup in the sixth.

Before the Blackhawks hit the ice for practice on Monday, the 25-year-old winger found a white jersey hanging in his stall. That's usually reserved for players who are injured — Andreas Martinsen (back) was the only other player wearing one — or players who are on the outside looking in, which appears to be Saad right now considering he was not part of the four-line rotation.

"I don't think anyone wants to be wearing white around here," he said. "But it is what it is and there's nothing you can do but keep trying to improve. It's their job to make the call to put the best team out there to win hockey games."

Known for being even-keeled through the ups and downs, Saad expressed disappointment about the possibility of being a healthy scratch on Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes. He didn't exactly show that emotion following his demotion to the fourth line, perhaps out of respect to the players he was playing with by noting how it brings balance.

But he did on Monday, and it was the first time we've really seen some sort of emotion out of him.

"Everyone makes mistakes and things aren't always going to go your way but to be out of the lineup, a little surprised today," Saad said. "But it is what it is. ... No one wants to be out of the lineup. That's never fun regardless of who you are."

When asked to pinpoint what's gone wrong, Saad said he wasn't the right person to ask.

"I think you got to ask him that," he said, referring to Joel Quenneville and the coaching staff. "It's his calls. For me, you can talk pros and cons as much as you want but just trying to go out there and compete and win hockey games. We've won a few here, I know every game has gone to overtime so they've been close. Nothing was said to me about lineup change or anything like that. You just come in and you see your jersey and you go out there and you play."

So Quenneville was asked.

"Just expect more," he said. "That's the situation."

Is his mindset in the right place?

"I think he's fine," Quenneville said. "His mindset is what it is. Whether it's urgency or passion, coming up with loose pucks in those areas is going to be the difference."

The Blackhawks sending a message shouldn't only be directed at Saad. It also serves as a reminder to his teammates and is important to note for the younger guys about earning your ice time.

"I don't really know where the coaches are coming from so I'm not going to comment on that," Jonathan Toews said respectfully. "But [Saad] has been doing some good things and I think it's good for all of us to know what's going on there because if [Saad] can get his ice time taken away, then so can a lot of guys, myself included. So we all want to play well and have team success."

The Blackhawks need Saad to return to form quickly because he's crucial to their overall success. There's no debate about that. It's why the thought of Saad, who played in all 82 games last season, serving as the 13th forward is frustrating for everyone involved.

It hasn't been a problem in the past, but now it's becoming one because of the Blackhawks' aspirations of getting back to the playoffs and their dependence on their top players.

"I don’t think it’s an issue," Quenneville said. "We just expect more out of him."

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

Blackhawks make sports history with fifth straight overtime game to start season

The Blackhawks made sports history on Saturday after they appeared in their fifth straight overtime game to start the season.

No NHL team has done that since the league introduced a regular-season overtime period in 1983-84, per the Elias Sports Bureau. It also has never happened in the history of MLB, NBA or NFL, showing just how crazy this early season run has been for the Blackhawks, who have rallied from all five games and have come away with wins in three of them.

"We’ve had five games, every one of them have been extremely intense and the game’s been on the line from start to finish," coach Joel Quenneville said following a 4-3 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues. "Our group’s been competitive this year, the guys have been working hard for one another. I don’t know how many games we’ve been down in the third period, and coming back to win is special."

The Blackhawks appeared in 17 overtime/shootout games last season and won seven of them. They are one of six teams this season that have yet to pick up a regulation win.

On a separate note, Saturday marked the eighth time in Blackhawks history that one player scored a tying goal in the third period and scored in overtime (Alex DeBrincat), according to the NHL's PR department. It's the second time it's happened this year for the Blackhawks, with Jonathan Toews the other on Oct. 6 against St. Louis.