Blackhawks

Five Things: Good work for Scott Darling vs. Blues

scott-darling-0407.png

Five Things: Good work for Scott Darling vs. Blues

Well, the Blackhawks were close to possibly getting home ice in the first round. But that is gone now, gone in the wake of two Vladimir Tarasenko goals.

The Blackhawks squandered their 1-0 lead as Tarasenko led the St. Louis Blues to a 2-1 overtime victory on Thursday night. Now the Blackhawks can only play their regular-season finale against the Columbus Blue Jackets and watch to see what happens with the Blues and Dallas Stars in the fight for the Central Division title.

So let’s play the waiting game, folks. Until it all plays out, read Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ overtime loss to the Blues.

1. Frustrated but not devastated. The Blackhawks would’ve loved to get a victory out of this one and see how interesting things really could’ve gotten with the regular-season finales. But considering they were missing some ammo for yet another game (Duncan Keith, Marian Hossa, Andrew Shaw, Artem Anisimov and Corey Crawford), they’ll lick their wounds and move on after this one. Yes, the Blackhawks have been missing a few guys for a few games now. It was bound to catch up with them as some point, wasn’t it? Thursday was that point.

2. Good work by Scott Darling. The backup goaltender has an unpredictable job. Coach Joel Quenneville says that guy always has to be ready because he never knows when he’ll be needed. Darling found that out these last few weeks, as he started 11 consecutive games after Crawford went down with an upper-body injury. He played pretty well, and was a big reason why the Blackhawks just about won on Thursday. Crawford is expected back on Saturday, but Darling did good work these past few weeks. “I felt really good tonight and the last few games,” Darling said. “It’s been a lot of fun to play.”

[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]

3. The case for Richard Panik? Yes, we don’t know where the heck you fit the guy when the Blackhawks get healthy again. But Quenneville talks about tough decisions, and Panik is giving him one with how he’s played down the stretch. With Hossa hurt, Panik has looked good and comfortable with Andrew Ladd and Jonathan Toews. “I have to try and play my best every game and earn the spot for the playoffs,” he said. “I feel bad about a minus today, but I think as a line we had a good game. Had a couple chances. Too bad we didn’t score.”

4. Trevor van Riemsdyk makes a save or two. Van Riemsdyk has learned a lot in this full rookie season, and he’s played better in recent games. He was in the right place at the right time twice tonight, pushing Magnus Paajarvi’s potential goal out of the way late in regulation and then keeping the puck out of the net early in overtime. “He’s been good,” Quenneville said. “Good around the net, he really picks his spots as far as when to join off the attack, finding little pockets, be it off the rush or in zone. He anticipates the options there and (he’s) improving on his reads and coverage around the net.”

5. A quiet night for Bryan Bickell. It was another chance for Bickell who only logged nine minutes, 11 seconds of ice time. But Bickell didn’t make much of an impact in his time. Quenneville pronounced him, “OK.” But Quenneville said Bickell has to do something in the time he is on the ice. “(With) the role and job description, you have to find a way to make a contribution in the limited ice time you do get.”

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goaltender Ray Emery was identified as the victim in an early morning drowning on Sunday at the Hamilton Harbour, Hamilton Police confirmed. He was 35.

According to the Hamilton Spectator, Emery and his friends jumped in the water around 6:30 a.m., but Emery never resurfaced. His body was recovered later in the afternoon.

Emery played in the NHL for 11 seasons, two of which came with the Blackhawks from 2011-13, where he served as a backup goaltender to Corey Crawford.

In 2013, he teammated up with Crawford to win the William M. Jennings Trophy, awarded to the goaltender(s) with the fewest goals against in a single season, before going on to capture his first Stanley Cup. During that season, Emery went 17-1-0 with a 1.94 goals against average, .922 save percentage and three shutouts.

The Blackhawks issued this statement following the confirmation:

The Chicago Blackhawks organization was deeply saddened to hear of Ray Emery’s passing. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. The Blackhawks will fondly remember Ray as a fierce competitor, a good teammate and a Stanley Cup champion.

The hockey community took to Twitter to offer their condolences when news began to spread:

Thank you, Marian Hossa: An ode to one of the best Blackhawks ever

Thank you, Marian Hossa: An ode to one of the best Blackhawks ever

When the Blackhawks drafted Jonathan Toews third overall in 2006 and Patrick Kane with the No. 1 pick the following year, it was a sign that the dark skies were clearing in Chicago. Things really started to change when Rocky Wirtz took over as chairman following the death of his father Bill in September of 2007, and one of the first decisions he made was to televise all 82 games.

The fans were coming back.

For only the second time in 11 years, the Blackhawks finished above .500 in 2007-08 but missed the playoffs by three points, a season in which Kane won the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie.

The following year Joel Quenneville took over as head coach after only three games to provide some coaching experience behind the bench for a young team on the rise. It resulted in a 104-point season and ended in a Conference Finals berth at the hands of the arch-rival Detroit Red Wings in five games.

The Blackhawks were ready to make that step into championship contenders. They just needed someone to put them over the edge.

Enter Marian Hossa.

On July 1 of 2009, he committed to the Blackhawks for 12 years worth $62.8 million. He bought into the long-term vision and wanted to be a part of something special for many years to come.

Was he ever.

In his first game as a member of the Blackhawks, Hossa scored two goals in a 7-2 road victory against San Jose after missing the first month and a half of the season with a shoulder injury. It was at that moment where you saw what kind of powerhouse the Blackhawks could be and would become with a full lineup and future Hall of Fame winger added to a mixture of franchise-changing players scratching the surface.

Fast forward to Game 5 of the 2010 quarterfinals. You know how it goes. Series is tied 2-2. The Blackhawks trail 4-3 late in the third period. Extra attacker is on. How many times have we seen this? The Blackhawks were surely going to find a way to tie it up ... and then Hossa is sent to the box with 1:03 to play in regulation. A five-minute major boarding penalty.

Dagger...

Not so fast. 

Patrick Kane went on to score arguably the biggest goal in Blackhawks history, a shorthanded one that evened it up with 13.6 seconds to go. United Center is up for grabs. But there are still four minutes left to kill off on the penalty once overtime starts, which Hossa once called "the longest four minutes of my life." 

In a span of nine seconds following the penalty kill, Hossa jumped on the ice from the box, darted straight for the net and buried home what was the second-biggest goal in franchise history to put the Blackhawks up 3-2 in the series. Two nights later Hossa assisted on three goals and the Blackhawks eliminated the Nashville Predators in their barn.

The rest is history.

Who knows if the Blackhawks rally to win that series if they don't tie it up or win it in overtime. Who knows if they break through the next year. Who knows if that core group even remains together. The course of the franchise could've changed that night.

Instead, Hossa was handed the Stanley Cup for the first time in his career on June 9, 2010 from Jonathan Toews, who couldn't give it to him fast enough after he came up on the losing end in consecutive appearances with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings in 2008 and 2009.

Hossa would add two more titles to his résumé with the Blackhawks in 2013 and 2015, which almost certainly locked up his legacy as one of the all-time greats and his eventual next stop: The Hockey Hall of Fame. The wait was worth it.

"I was hoping to get one coming to Chicago and now I’ve got three," Hossa said following the 2015 Stanley Cup win. "What a feeling." 

The Blackhawks don't win three Stanley Cups without Hossa, who will go down as arguably the greatest free-agent signing in Chicago sports history.

On behalf of the city of Chicago: Thank you, 81.