Blackhawks

Five Things from Blackhawks-Preds: Darling impresses again

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Five Things from Blackhawks-Preds: Darling impresses again

NASHVILLE — It’s certainly not how the Blackhawks would’ve drawn it up: a horrible first period, a 3-0 deficit out of it, a pulled starting goaltender, a second-period comeback and one-plus overtime to get the winner.

Yes, it was an interesting night for the Blackhawks, who started off bad and finished with a flourish and a 4-3 double-overtime victory over the Nashville Predators on Wednesday. This one featured all sorts of drama and, well, some damn awesome playoff hockey from both teams.

So while we still have a little post-deadline adrenaline flowing, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ come-from-behind victory over the Predators.

[MORE: Goalie switch sparks Blackhawks to double-OT win in Game 1]

1. Darling does it again. Scott Darling probably didn’t think his first NHL postseason game would come in relief duty but there it is nonetheless. Darling was in from the second period on, and was outstanding from the third period until Duncan Keith scored the game-winning goal. One stop that will likely get replayed a few times is his stop on Ryan Ellis on a third-period power play. Darling said he did some previous video study on it: “they tried it a few times before and didn’t connect. That one they did it exactly how they wanted to do it and I got a leg over,” he said. “It’s a 50-50 shot: either he gets the top of the net or doesn’t and it hit my leg. So I was happy about that.”

2. Patrick Kane is back. Kane said he felt a little rusty with his timing, something that was expected given he missed the last seven weeks with a fractured clavicle. Nevertheless, he made an impact and it was most noticeable on the power play. The Blackhawks scored two power-play goals on Wednesday, a Patrick Sharp 5-on-3 and a Jonathan Toews 5-on-4 score that tied the game. Even when they didn’t score on it, their possession time and opportunities were much better. Kane was a major contributor to that.

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3. Be ready from the start. The Blackhawks weren’t — clearly — ready at puck drop on Wednesday night. The Predators deserve their share of the credit. They were out to prove something, they had a crowd decidedly on their side and they took advantage of every miscue the Blackhawks committed. The Predators had great chances to win this game, chances that Darling stopped. The Predators will look for the same start on Friday; the Blackhawks have to be more ready for it then than they were on Wednesday.

4. Sticking with it. The Blackhawks haven’t faced many 3-0 first-period deficits in recent playoff games but they have dealt with the ups and downs of postseasons. That experience helped them on Wednesday, when they said they didn’t scream or carry on after a horrible first. “Nobody was too down; we knew we had a lot of time left,” Kane said. “It’s something we’ve been through a lot.”

5. It is just one game. Let’s look at this with a broad scope: the Blackhawks played a tremendous second period but Darling had to come up with some massive saves to keep this game going as long as it did. The Blackhawks will take this one, especially given that bad start. But they know there’s no reason to over-celebrate. Said Keith, “first game in a series. There’s a lot of hockey left to be played.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: The Blackhawks' big win over the Capitals

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: The Blackhawks' big win over the Capitals

David Haugh, Jason Goff and Jordan Bernfield join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00- Pat Boyle and Patrick Sharp drop by to talk about the Blackhawks' big win over the Capitals. Plus, Sharpie talks about the young Hawks who will be stars in the future.

12:00- Super Bowl LIII is set after a dramatic and controversial Championship Sunday. Does the NFL need to expand instant replay to include pass interference after a no-call cost the Saints a Super Bowl bid? Plus does the league need to change its overtime format after Patrick Mahomes didn't get to touch the ball at the end of the AFC title game?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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Blackhawks notebook: Kane-Toews chemistry, Seabrook's contract, Crawford update and Smith's role

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks notebook: Kane-Toews chemistry, Seabrook's contract, Crawford update and Smith's role

It's no surprise that Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews each had offensive explosions after getting put on the same line together on Sunday against the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. But at the same time it was.

The duo played 273:28 minutes at even strength together last season, according to naturalstattrick.com, but had a minus-6 goal differential during that time. It was bizarre because they controlled 56.9 percent of the shot attempts and 60.5 percent of the high-danger chances.

Perhaps the hockey gods are repaying them for what they deserved a year ago. Or those are the results you're eventually going to get when you put two future Hall of Famers on the ice at the same time.

“For an offensive guy that wants the puck, he’s pretty much the perfect center to play with," Kane said. "He wins a lot of battles, he wins faceoffs, he’s obviously able to make plays and he can get to the hard areas, too, so he opens up a lot of space. We haven’t played with each other a lot over the past handful of years, but we played a lot together early on, so I think sometimes we just kind of revert back to what we did back then. It makes the game simple. It’s not like you have to think too much or even talk too much about what we want to do. We just want to work hard, win battles and play well defensively. If we do that, we should get a lot of chances.”

Toews turned the clock back before he and Kane were even in the NHL.

"I remember since we were like 12 or 13 playing against each other in Triple-A hockey, he was one of the smallest guys out there and he just seemed to be able to handle the puck so well even at that age," Toews said of Kane. "He could back defenders off and create time and space. He was tough to check because he was slippery and he was just deceptive. I think that's what sets him above everybody else in the league and most star players that maybe can take advantage of skating, size and speed where he doesn't really need any of those things. He's so smart when he gets the puck."

Whether or not they stay together for the long term remains to be seen, but the when Nos. 19 and 88 are clicking, usually the Blackhawks are too.

Brent Seabrook's contract

It's no secret in Chicago that Seabrook's contract sticks out as one that won't exactly age well for the Blackhawks under a salary cap system. At age 33, he's in Year 3 of an eight-year deal that carries a $6.875 million cap hit. 

While his best years on the ice may be behind him, his teammates believe Seabrook is still as important as ever inside the locker room and the team unity. Kane came to his defense on Monday after practice in response to a question about the core veterans trying to sustain a winning culture in a trying season.

"People want to get on Seabs about his contract," Kane said. "But to us, he’s underpaid [for] what he brings in this locker room and the way he’s such a great leader, such a big part of this locker room, takes in every guy just like he’s known him his whole life. He’s an unbelievable teammate. Even that game when we missed him when he was sick, you lose your heart and soul of the team a little bit because he’s such a big piece."

Corey Crawford update

Jeremy Colliton's playing career was cut short because of his concussion history. He knows exactly what Crawford is going through, which means he knows how to handle his situation from a coach's perspective.

Crawford skated with the team for the first time over the weekend, but Colliton cautioned not to read anything into it. He didn't provide much more information than that.

On Monday, Colliton offered a longer-form response on why he's been mum about Crawford's status:

"Him going on the ice, I said it two days ago, not to read too much into it. It’s going to be a process here. The day-to-day, it doesn’t really matter. It’s over time. Is he feeling better? Is he progressing? I’m not in his ear, 'How are you feeling?', asking [head athletic trainer Mike Gapski], 'How’s Crow feeling?' It doesn’t help me, it doesn’t help him and minute-to-minute, it doesn’t matter. It’s over time, how does he feel, is he getting better? Did I talk to him today? Yeah I talked to him today. But I didn’t ask him how he was feeling. Because day to day, it’s a non-issue. I just want him to be happy and over time, feel better. And then we’ll see if he can play at the end of that."

Barry Smith's role

When Blackhawks practiced wrapped up on Monday, Smith addressed the team in a huddle, got a stick tap ovation and received a handshake from every player. This was his last practice as the assistant coach, and Tuesday vs. the New York Islanders will be his last game behind the bench before Sheldon Brookbank officially takes full control of those responsibilities along with Don Granato.

After Tuesday, Smith will transition back into his role with the Blackhawks as Director of Player Evaluation.

"Certainly his experience and just his presence," Colliton said on what Smith brought to the table. "Great guy, very, very fun to be around. I knew him from last year, he’d been around Rockford. We were a little bit shorthanded and he left his wife and his previous life, lived in a hotel for two and a half months and was a great resource for me and the staff, and really appreciate that. He’s been through the wars already, so for him to come back into it was very selfless of him, I thought."

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