Blackhawks

Scott Darling grateful for time with Blackhawks, 'super excited' about next chapter with Hurricanes

Scott Darling grateful for time with Blackhawks, 'super excited' about next chapter with Hurricanes

At the end of the season, Scott Darling said "it's going to be a long couple months waiting" to see how his situation as a pending unrestricted free agent plays out.

He didn't have to wait nearly as long as expected.

It took exactly a week to iron out a long-term extension with the Carolina Hurricanes, who traded for the former Blackhawks goaltender's negotiating rights for a 2017 third-round pick on April 28 and signed him to a four-year, $16.6 million contract Friday. 

And Darling is already looking forward to the next chapter.

"I was super excited when the trade happened," he said during a conference call with reporters Saturday. "My goal the whole time was to sign with Carolina. I'm really excited about the team that's there. I've heard nothing but great things. Once we worked out the contract part, it was a no-brainer."

The Hurricanes took a risk by acquiring the 28-year-old Lemont native, and not necessarily because they invested in a guy who's been a backup for the last three years. He has the tools to be a full-time starter, and they saw it first-hand when Darling stopped 39 of 40 shots against Carolina at the United Center in January.

"When you look at the size of Scott and at the body of work he's put in to this point, you get a sense of where you think he could be and what you think he can do," GM Ron Francis said. "I like the fact that he's big and competitive as hell. We feel he's ready for that opportunity and capable of succeeding."

The real gamble was that Darling could have easily passed on signing a deal so he could hit the market on July 1 to expand his pool of options. But he bought what Carolina was selling, and even chatted with former Chicago teammates Bryan Bickell and Joakim Nordstrom that helped reaffirm his positive beliefs about the organization.

"That kind of put my mind at ease," Darling said.

A large reason why Darling is as ready as possible to become an every day starter is because he had the opportunity to learn from two-time Stanley Cup champion Corey Crawford on a regular basis. Both netminders were instrumental in the Blackhawks' 2015 championship run, but Darling was able to share the ups and downs with Crawford throughout that journey and get a feel for how to overcome adverse situations.

"I think the last three years I learned a lot about the mental part of the game in watching Crow play every day and being lucky enough to study one of the best goalies in the world every single day and getting advice from him, teaching me how he goes about and thinks about goaltending," Darling said. "I learned a lot from him. The skills came along, too, but I think a lot of it was between the ears. I was lucky enough to learn from one of the best."

When Crawford missed three weeks in December due to an appendectomy, Darling was given the keys by starting all 10 games in 18 days. He went 6-3-1 and registered a .931 save percentage, including a shutout, during that stretch, expanding his sample size and further proving he's capable of handling the responsibilities of being a No. 1 goaltender.

More than anything, Darling is simply hungry to take on the challenge.

"I think I'm confident because I'm excited about it," Darling said. "I’m going to do everything in my power to learn how to be the best starter I can be. I have a good network of goalie friends and I’m going to be picking their brains and asking for help and do everything I can do to be successful.”

Blackhawks not going to 'freak out' about 0-2-1 start

Blackhawks not going to 'freak out' about 0-2-1 start

The Blackhawks wanted to get off to a strong start this season because they know how hard it is to climb out of a hole in the Central Division. Last season was proof of that.

Well, they've picked up only one out of a possible six points through three games and are one of three teams still searching for their first victory of the season. But they're not going into panic mode just yet.

"We know there's things we have to improve upon," Jonathan Toews said. "Jeremy [Colliton] always talks about doing the right thing and over time eventually you're going to get results. I don't know if we can say we're doing things the right things that we want to and we're playing complete games right now, so even having said that, midway through the San Jose game and even against Winnipeg we were in a position to take control of the game going into the third period and we let teams back in. So I think there's a lot of ways we can play better.

"But having said that we're in those games and giving ourselves a chance to win. Obviously that's not good enough, but we're not going to freak out and say, 'we've got to start winning games.' Of course that's the goal, we wanted to get two points the other night."

The quest to pick up their first two points of the season doesn't get any easier for the Blackhawks on Monday night. The Edmonton Oilers are coming to town with a 5-0-0 record, and they're clicking on all cylinders. They have the second-best power play unit (41.2 percent), second-best penalty kill percentage (94.1), the NHL's leading point-getter in Connor McDavid (12) and leading goal scorer in James Neal (seven).

The Blackhawks know at some point they have to start stringing together some wins, but they're not living and dying by the standings right now because everything looks out of proportion. They're focused on the process and putting together a full 60-minute effort.

"It's always magnified at the start of the year," Colliton said. "Your special teams, you got [teams] with 100 percent PK, you got [teams] with 40 percent power play, and all the little things they look way bigger than they are. Would be nice for us to get a win, get some positive feelings but any three-game window among the 82, it's not going to be looked upon as closely as this one.

"So again, we've just got to focus on playing hard, playing the game the right way, do the right thing time and time again and we'll get the results." 

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Corey Crawford to start in goal for Blackhawks vs. Oilers

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USA Today

Corey Crawford to start in goal for Blackhawks vs. Oilers

Corey Crawford will start in goal for the Blackhawks when they take on the Edmonton Oilers on Monday night. He's 0-2-0 with a 4.63 goals-against average and .875 save percentage this season.

In 18 career appearances against the Oilers, Crawford is 9-7-0 with a 2.53 goals-against average, .909 save percentage and one shutout. 

The decision is a little surprising, given how well Lehner performed on Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets and what his career numbers are against the Oilers. In eight starts vs. Edmonton, Lehner is 5-1-2 with a 1.86 goals-against average, .943 save percentage and one shutout.

"We're going to continue to ... both guys are going to get in," coach Jeremy Colliton said after Monday's morning skate. "They're both going to play. I'm not going to give you the road map, but today it's Crawford and we'll go from there."

The Blackhawks are seeking their first win of the season (0-2-1) against an Oilers team that's 5-0-0.

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