Goaltender is a pressure-packed position. You have to have thick skin and a short memory. Keeping the nerves in check also helps.
Scott Darling has had a lot thrown at him in his brief NHL career. From goaltender waiting in the wings to Blackhawks backup to (at least at the moment) postseason starter, Darling has handled it all beautifully. That includes Sunday, when Darling got his first NHL postseason start and won, stopping 35 of 37 shots in the Blackhawks’ 4-2 victory over the Nashville Predators.
The Blackhawks are up 2-1 in this first-round series, thanks in large part to Darling. So does he start Game 4? Will the Blackhawks keep the momentum going they gained in Game 3? Let’s get to the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory on Sunday.
1. Who’s your goalie? Yes, we’re going to hit on this topic a lot for obvious reasons. Darling’s work in Games 1 and 3 is one of the feel-good stories of the postseason. So does Darling start on Tuesday? Coach Joel Quenneville said he’ll discuss that with his fellow coaches but it’ll be hard to believe Darling doesn’t get the nod. As Quenneville said, “certainly he did everything he could to get himself back in the net.” Right now, it seems like it’s his job to lose. At least, right now, it should be his job.
2. Total team effort. Yes, the Blackhawks gave up those two goals right after they scored. But all in all this was one of their best efforts in some time and definitely their best of the postseason. Once Brandon Saad gave the Blackhawks a 3-2 lead they dominated. Three players scored their first goals of the postseason today (Saad, Andrew Desjardins and Brent Seabrook). The Blackhawks kept the Predators to nine third-period shots and kept attacking right to the end of this one.
3. Top line takes advantage. The Predators were without all-everything defenseman Shea Weber, who would draw the top-line assignment if he was not sidelined with a lower-body injury. Saad, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa exploited that loss, as that trio combined for two goals and three assists. Yes, the Predators still have some fine defensemen. But Weber does so much and plays so much that the Blackhawks had to take advantage of his absence. They did.
[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]
4. Nice debut for Desjardins. Quenneville wanted to change his lineup after Game 2, and installing Desjardins on the fourth line was a great idea. Desjardins, who played well on that line when Joakim Nordstrom was suspended and later injured, scored his first postseason goal since April of 2012. He was energetic and he wasn’t afraid to take shots if they were there. Desjardins finished with four shots on goal, the second highest total of any of the Blackhawks.
5. One more on Hossa. Hey, we have to break out some extra space for Hossa because he was great on Sunday. His game seemed to get better as the postseason neared, and he was all over the place on Sunday, doing everything but score a goal. Hossa had a team-high six shots on goal and two takeaways. Said Saad, “As a team we came out with an extra gear there and Hossa, obviously he’s a special player and he dominated the game.”