Blackhawks

Scott Darling unsure of future with Blackhawks as he prepares to hit free agency

Scott Darling unsure of future with Blackhawks as he prepares to hit free agency

Scott Darling is in a tough spot.

The Lemont native has repeatedly expressed how much he enjoys playing for his hometown Blackhawks, but he's also proven that he can handle the responsibilities that comes with being a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL.

And it's hard to envision a scenario where that happens here in Chicago as he prepares to hit unrestricted free agency on July 1, meaning his days in an Indianhead sweater could be numbered.

During the end-of-the-season press conference Saturday, Darling said he "hasn't really thought about what's going to happen" this summer, but admitted he feels like he's ready to be a full-time starter.

"Yeah, I feel like I've paid my dues as a backup," he said. "And when I've had a chance to play in consecutive games I feel like I've shown that I can do it."

He certainly has.

Darling, 28, had his best — and most consistent — campaign with the Blackhawks in 2016-17, finishing with an 18-5-5 record, a 2.38 goals against average and .924 save percentage, which ranked tied for fourth in the league. He also recorded a pair of shutouts.

It's enough to earn him a big and well-deserved pay raise — something the Blackhawks likely can't afford with (a bargain) $6 million committed to Corey Crawford through 2019-20 — after carrying a $587,500 cap hit the last two years.

"I think that he really did give us some outstanding goaltending this year (and) throughout the years here," Joel Quenneville said of Darling. "I don’t know how it’s all going to play out, but you know that he’s come a long way and progression has been something that he’s ... earned the opportunity to get the next challenge or the next step."

Crawford developed a strong bond with Darling as they shared the crease together for three years, and he had nothing but high remarks to say about his teammate.

"Scott has been great," he said. "He keeps getting better. This year he was unbelievable for us. A big guy who can move (as well as) any guy in the league. He sees the puck well. I don't know what that situation holds, but he was great for us this year."

There will undoubtedly be several teams interested in Darling's services this offseason, with the Carolina Hurricanes and Dallas Stars pegged as potential solid fits. Perhaps he's an option for the Las Vegas Golden Knights, too.

But it's still early to tell, and things can change quickly over the next couple months. 

"I don't really know the landscape of the teams," Darling said. "Goalie situations change so much in the summer, so you really can't forecast it. Still got to talk to the Hawks and see what they think. I don't really know yet, so we'll see what happens."

"I'm excited to see how it plays out. But it's going to be a long couple months of waiting."

After Darling's media session concluded, he shooks the hands of a few media members and smiled, saying, "just in case."

Right before that, he was asked to summarize what his journey has been like with the Blackhawks and fought back emotions when describing how special his time in Chicago has been for him.

"If that does happen, I wouldn't change a second of my time in Chicago," Darling said. "It's been bar-none the best three years of my life. Loved every second. They've been so great to me, my teammates, coaching staff, front office, everybody's been amazing. I wouldn't change a minute."

After snapping 12-game goal drought, Alex DeBrincat hoping 'I can get hot again'

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AP

After snapping 12-game goal drought, Alex DeBrincat hoping 'I can get hot again'

BOSTON — Alex DeBrincat isn't used to going through long stretches without scoring a goal. He found the back of the net 41 times last season, which was tied for sixth amongst all skaters.

But the offense hasn't come as naturally for him this season. 

While he's dishing out assists at a career-high rate (0.50 per game), DeBrincat had only five goals through 27 games going into Thursday and was on pace to finish the season with 15. The longest goal drought of his NHL career is 13 games, which came during his rookie season, and he was on the verge of tying that mark.

But after breaking through in the third period of Thursday's 4-3 overtime win over the Boston Bruins, DeBrincat ended a 12-game drought for his first goal since Nov. 7. And he's hoping it will open the floodgates.

"It was a long time between goals," DeBrincat said. "But hopefully I can get hot again and keep going."

DeBrincat didn't show it, but the frustration was brewing inside. In Saturday's 7-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche he couldn't convert on an open backdoor chance and took out his anger on Samuel Girard by picking a fight with the 5-foot-10, 170-pound defenseman.

DeBrincat is a goal scorer and he wasn't scoring. With the monkey off his back, perhaps this could propel his offensive production.

"He's been playing well, getting chances," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "They just haven't gone in for him. Hopefully this is the little boost that he needs."

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Blackhawks pick up marquee overtime win in Boston, but will it serve as jump-start to something bigger?

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USA Today

Blackhawks pick up marquee overtime win in Boston, but will it serve as jump-start to something bigger?

BOSTON — The Blackhawks knew Thursday's matchup against the Boston Bruins was going to be a serious test. They had lost three in a row (0-3-0) and six of their past seven games (1-5-1) and were running into a Bruins team that was aiming for their ninth consecutive win.

To make things more challenging, the Blackhawks were without Duncan Keith (groin) for the fourth straight game, Andrew Shaw (concussion protocol) for the second time and Olli Maatta (flu-like symptoms). It was going to be a measuring stick kind of game for the Blackhawks against the reigning Eastern Conference champions, especially after getting blown out 4-0 to the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues in their previous outing.

The Blackhawks were slightly the better team through the first 40 minutes, capitalizing on a couple of chances and killing off four penalties against the NHL's second-ranked power play unit to take a 2-0 lead into the second intermission. But you knew the Bruins, who had yet to lose in regulation at home this season (12-0-4), were going to push back hard in their own building and they did.

After Alex DeBrincat scored 17 seconds — how fitting? — into the third period to make it 3-0, the Bruins responded 1:32 later and that's when the ride turned in a hurry.

The Bruins peppered the Blackhawks with 11 even-strength scoring chances in the third period, according to Natural Stat Trick, after having 12 in the first two periods combined and scored three straight to force overtime. Chris Wagner took advantage of an Erik Gustafsson tire blowout on a 2-on-1 opportunity by scoring a shorthanded goal to cut the Blackhawks' lead to 3-2 with 4:59 left in regulation and Torey Krug tied it up at 3-3 just 2:26 later.

But Jonathan Toews salvaged the second point for the Blackhawks by scoring on a breakaway 54 seconds into overtime to give his club a much-needed 4-3 victory against arguably the NHL's best team.

"I think we did a good job of hanging in there," Toews said of the Bruins' third-period push. "We're not happy with giving up the lead for sure. ... But it's nice to get the win even though they turned the momentum late in the game."

It was a win the Blackhawks can feel good about from the perspective that every guy played an important role. 

Ryan Carpenter scored a shorthanded goal for his first of the season, DeBrincat (12 games) and Toews (seven) each ended their goal droughts, Dylan Strome had a multi-point effort after missing four games with a concussion, Connor Murphy had a two-assist night, Calvin de Haan led all skaters with 25:26 of ice time and Robin Lehner stopped 37 of 40 shots for a save percentage of .925 after getting pulled in his last start.

The Blackhawks were desperate for a win and they got it, even though it was an ugly finish.

"We knew it was a great opportunity because we haven't played up to par for a long period of time," Lehner said. "We know we have to change the tide and this was a great opportunity to do so. As I've said before we've shown in spurts we're a good team, we've just got to start doing it consistently. It's the same thing in the third period today. We were doing some things that were unacceptable that we need to just take out of our game and then we'll be fine. We have the right personnel on this team to be a good team."

While they will certainly take the two points on the road, the Blackhawks know it won't matter unless they turn this into something larger. They've slipped near the bottom of the Western Conference and are trying to climb their way back up yet again.

And there's an opportunity for the Blackhawks to earn four points in a 48-hour span on Friday against a New Jersey Devils squad that has the second-fewest points (22) of any team and second-worst goal differential (minus-32).

"We had a little run there after we had a big win in Nashville," Toews said. "Whether we win a string of games together, we can build off games like this. We had the start we needed tonight and carried it through 60 for the most part. It's got to be a confidence builder when you beat a team like Boston in their own building but what matters is what we do next. We got another chance to build off it tomorrow night."

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