ST. LOUIS – Jimmy Waite figured Corey Crawford and Scott Darling will critique his third-period performance in the Blackhawks-St. Louis Blues alumni game, one in which he gave up goals to Keith Tkachuk and Pierre Turgeon.
“I’ll hear from the boys tomorrow. ‘What are you doing?’” Waite said on Saturday afternoon. “Maybe watch the video and see what I did wrong.”
As far as the reverse critique, the Blackhawks’ goaltending coach is happy with what Crawford and Darling have done this season. So are the rest of the Blackhawks, who know they may not be where they are in the standings if not for those two.
“I just like how steady they are,” Waite said. “They may have had a couple of bad nights all year, so that’s pretty good.”
Crawford has become very steady, especially over the last two seasons. Whether it’s helping a defensively depleted Blackhawks team last season or buoying a hit-and-miss scoring Blackhawks team this season, Crawford has been dependable. Waite said Crawford and Darling have sharpened some aspects of their game lately.
“I think [Crawford’s] post play around the net has improved a lot in the last three years. Same with Scotty. We’ve been working a lot on that,” Waite said. “Their games are very solid. They know how to manage the game very well, know when to challenge and when to stay back and we talk a lot about that and how deep you are in net. That’s important for us.”
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Darling showed he could handle a bigger workload while Crawford recovered from his appendectomy. Could Darling be a No. 1 at some point? Waite could see it.
“He proves it when he has to step in for a period of time he shows he can be a No. 1 and it’s a different thing to be No. 1, to be the guy night in and night out,” said Waite of Darling, who’s also an unrestricted free agent with a Blackhawks team that will, again, have money issues.
“For sure, I’d like to keep him, right?” Waite said of Darling. “But we’ll see with the cap what’s going to happen. A lot of things could change from here to the end of the year so we’ll see. But obviously I’d like to keep my goaltenders. I like them.”
Speaking of that Crawford appendectomy, Waite couldn’t have been the emergency because, as a former professional, he would have counted against the Blackhawks’ salary cap – “yeah, right? I’m too expensive,” Waite said. When Crawford returned from that appendectomy he looked great, taking a tough one-goal loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Dec. 23. Waite said he told Crawford to keep it simple coming off the surgery.
Waite enjoyed his second alumni-game turn in as many seasons – he had a memorable stop against Mike Modano in last year’s game against Minnesota’s alums. Now he’ll go back to keeping Crawford and Darling sharp. So far this season, it’s working.
“When goaltending gives you a chance to win every night, that’s what you’re looking for. So make the key saves at the right time, which makes a big difference in the game,” Waite said. “That’s what they’ve been able to do all year.”