Darling Day: Blackhawks goaltender honored in hometown of Lemont


Darling Day: Blackhawks goaltender honored in hometown of Lemont

Scott Darling carried the Stanley Cup through the Lemont Park District building, a few steps away from where he went to middle school and not far from where he grew up.

“To have my family here and just to be in the streets where I used to ride my bike, hang out and to see people so excited to have me here, it’s been pretty amazing,” said Darling.

Monday marked another memorable day for Darling, who celebrated his Stanley Cup day in Lemont and the surrounding area. Darling took the Cup to Palatine and Bloomingdale this morning before heading back to Lemont, where a few thousand people attended the Cup viewing. Lemont mayor Brian K. Reaves proclaimed Monday Scott Darling Day and also presented a sign bearing Darling’s name, which will be placed on a street sign near the goaltender’s childhood home.

“This is what you dream about, this is the pinnacle of what we worked toward,” Darling said. “It’s pretty amazing.”

[MORE BLACKHAWKS: Scott Darling gets new Stanley Cup inspired tattoo]

It was just about a year ago that the Blackhawks signed Darling, who, up to that point, had played for four minor-league teams since the fall of 2012. It was a chance for Darling to play for his hometown team, although it didn’t seem to be a major one at the time. Antti Raanta had established himself as the Blackhawks’ backup and had just signed a two-year extension. But Darling impressed the Blackhawks at training camp and when Corey Crawford was hurt in December, Darling started four consecutive road games and won three of them.

In February the Blackhawks signed Darling to his own two-year extension and sent Raanta to Rockford. The Blackhawks made their choice of backup goaltender then but they reconfirmed it on Saturday when they traded Raanta to the New York Rangers. While Darling and Raanta fought for the same job here, Darling said the two remain close.

“He and I, through a pretty uncomfortable situation, remained really great friends,” Darling said. “He’s a great guy. We continue to be friends and I wish him the best of luck (in New York). It’s an exciting opportunity for him and for me, too.”

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Darling won’t relax now that the backup goaltending job is his. His signing last summer and emergence this season is the perfect example of how things can change. Still, it’s looking good for Darling. The Blackhawks like what he brings and he played a critical role in the team’s first-round victory over the Nashville Predators.

Soon, the furor will die down and Darling will be able to reflect on the whirlwind that’s been this past year – “that’ll probably start tomorrow… maybe turn my phone off and enjoy it a little bit.” For one more day, however, Darling was enjoying the Cup reverie among those who know him best.

“It means a lot,” Darling said. “I never forgot where I came from. I call this home; I always have my whole life. I played baseball with the Lemont Indians. I see the kids in Orland Park jerseys. They’re on their way; they’re on the right path. It’s exciting.”

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.