Blackhawks

Top line shines as Blackhawks down Preds, take 2-1 series lead

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Top line shines as Blackhawks down Preds, take 2-1 series lead

Scott Darling takes the same approach, has the same mindset entering every game: he’s just thrilled to be here, thrilled to be getting the opportunities he’s earning.

He may have just earned himself another one.

Darling stopped 35 of 37 shots for his second victory of the postseason and Jonathan Toews had a goal and an assist as the Blackhawks beat the Nashville Predators, 4-2, in Game 3 of their first-round series on Sunday. The Blackhawks take a 2-1 lead in the series, with Game 4 scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Andrew Desjardins, playing his first postseason game with the Blackhawks, scored his first postseason goal since April 12, 2012 (vs. St. Louis), when he was with the San Jose Sharks. Brandon Saad and Brent Seabrook also scored for the Blackhawks.

Darling, who relieved Corey Crawford in Game 1, got his first NHL postseason start on Sunday. He didn’t disappoint, coming up big when the Blackhawks needed him to do so.

So, does Darling earn the start in Game 4, too?

“We’ll talk about it but certainly he did everything he could to get himself back in the net,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He was rock solid today. He did everything he could to get us a win and he was square, big and controlled a lot of pucks around the net as well.”

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Darling got word from goaltending coach Jimmy Waite on Saturday that he was starting this afternoon. He said he got nothing but support from Crawford.

“He was great,” Darling said. “We’re a good goalie tandem with our relationship. He was happy for me, very positive. It was good.”

Darling didn’t have much time to think or worry when he came into Game 1 in the second period. This time he had more than a day to think about it. But if he was nervous, it didn’t show in his play.

“It was a little bit nerve-wracking but exciting all at the same time,” said Darling. “It couldn’t have been a better game for the team to help me in my first playoff start.”

Still, there were some moments through the first period plus that made you wonder if the Blackhawks were going down a bad road again. Just 31 seconds after Desjardins scored to give the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead, Mike Ribeiro scored to tie it for the Predators. And just 22 seconds after Toews scored, Mattias Ekholm evened it at 2-2 for Nashville.

“Disappointing,” Quenneville said of those two quick Nashville goals. “One was off a faceoff, one was not the way we play. We make a turnover in the slot right after a play and that’s not what we’re looking to do. Coverage off the rush was positionally poor, the other off a faceoff and sometimes they go in. But that’s the way it is when we talk about key shifts, being first shifts after goals, last or first shifts off periods, a lot of important shifts. That can’t happen on those two.”

The Blackhawks settled down after Saad’s goal, however, with Darling making a big not long after that to keep the lead. The Blackhawks padded their edge later in the second period when, after a long sequence in the Predators’ zone, Seabrook’s shot trickled through Pekka Rinne.

Darling has shown poise, be it the regular- or postseason. It’s hard to imagine the Blackhawks won’t go with him again in Game 4. He’s happy to be here, and playing like he definitely belongs here.

 

 

SportsTalk Live Podcast: The Blackhawks' big win over the Capitals

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: The Blackhawks' big win over the Capitals

David Haugh, Jason Goff and Jordan Bernfield join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00- Pat Boyle and Patrick Sharp drop by to talk about the Blackhawks' big win over the Capitals. Plus, Sharpie talks about the young Hawks who will be stars in the future.

12:00- Super Bowl LIII is set after a dramatic and controversial Championship Sunday. Does the NFL need to expand instant replay to include pass interference after a no-call cost the Saints a Super Bowl bid? Plus does the league need to change its overtime format after Patrick Mahomes didn't get to touch the ball at the end of the AFC title game?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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Blackhawks notebook: Kane-Toews chemistry, Seabrook's contract, Crawford update and Smith's role

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks notebook: Kane-Toews chemistry, Seabrook's contract, Crawford update and Smith's role

It's no surprise that Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews each had offensive explosions after getting put on the same line together on Sunday against the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. But at the same time it was.

The duo played 273:28 minutes at even strength together last season, according to naturalstattrick.com, but had a minus-6 goal differential during that time. It was bizarre because they controlled 56.9 percent of the shot attempts and 60.5 percent of the high-danger chances.

Perhaps the hockey gods are repaying them for what they deserved a year ago. Or those are the results you're eventually going to get when you put two future Hall of Famers on the ice at the same time.

“For an offensive guy that wants the puck, he’s pretty much the perfect center to play with," Kane said. "He wins a lot of battles, he wins faceoffs, he’s obviously able to make plays and he can get to the hard areas, too, so he opens up a lot of space. We haven’t played with each other a lot over the past handful of years, but we played a lot together early on, so I think sometimes we just kind of revert back to what we did back then. It makes the game simple. It’s not like you have to think too much or even talk too much about what we want to do. We just want to work hard, win battles and play well defensively. If we do that, we should get a lot of chances.”

Toews turned the clock back before he and Kane were even in the NHL.

"I remember since we were like 12 or 13 playing against each other in Triple-A hockey, he was one of the smallest guys out there and he just seemed to be able to handle the puck so well even at that age," Toews said of Kane. "He could back defenders off and create time and space. He was tough to check because he was slippery and he was just deceptive. I think that's what sets him above everybody else in the league and most star players that maybe can take advantage of skating, size and speed where he doesn't really need any of those things. He's so smart when he gets the puck."

Whether or not they stay together for the long term remains to be seen, but the when Nos. 19 and 88 are clicking, usually the Blackhawks are too.

Brent Seabrook's contract

It's no secret in Chicago that Seabrook's contract sticks out as one that won't exactly age well for the Blackhawks under a salary cap system. At age 33, he's in Year 3 of an eight-year deal that carries a $6.875 million cap hit. 

While his best years on the ice may be behind him, his teammates believe Seabrook is still as important as ever inside the locker room and the team unity. Kane came to his defense on Monday after practice in response to a question about the core veterans trying to sustain a winning culture in a trying season.

"People want to get on Seabs about his contract," Kane said. "But to us, he’s underpaid [for] what he brings in this locker room and the way he’s such a great leader, such a big part of this locker room, takes in every guy just like he’s known him his whole life. He’s an unbelievable teammate. Even that game when we missed him when he was sick, you lose your heart and soul of the team a little bit because he’s such a big piece."

Corey Crawford update

Jeremy Colliton's playing career was cut short because of his concussion history. He knows exactly what Crawford is going through, which means he knows how to handle his situation from a coach's perspective.

Crawford skated with the team for the first time over the weekend, but Colliton cautioned not to read anything into it. He didn't provide much more information than that.

On Monday, Colliton offered a longer-form response on why he's been mum about Crawford's status:

"Him going on the ice, I said it two days ago, not to read too much into it. It’s going to be a process here. The day-to-day, it doesn’t really matter. It’s over time. Is he feeling better? Is he progressing? I’m not in his ear, 'How are you feeling?', asking [head athletic trainer Mike Gapski], 'How’s Crow feeling?' It doesn’t help me, it doesn’t help him and minute-to-minute, it doesn’t matter. It’s over time, how does he feel, is he getting better? Did I talk to him today? Yeah I talked to him today. But I didn’t ask him how he was feeling. Because day to day, it’s a non-issue. I just want him to be happy and over time, feel better. And then we’ll see if he can play at the end of that."

Barry Smith's role

When Blackhawks practiced wrapped up on Monday, Smith addressed the team in a huddle, got a stick tap ovation and received a handshake from every player. This was his last practice as the assistant coach, and Tuesday vs. the New York Islanders will be his last game behind the bench before Sheldon Brookbank officially takes full control of those responsibilities along with Don Granato.

After Tuesday, Smith will transition back into his role with the Blackhawks as Director of Player Evaluation.

"Certainly his experience and just his presence," Colliton said on what Smith brought to the table. "Great guy, very, very fun to be around. I knew him from last year, he’d been around Rockford. We were a little bit shorthanded and he left his wife and his previous life, lived in a hotel for two and a half months and was a great resource for me and the staff, and really appreciate that. He’s been through the wars already, so for him to come back into it was very selfless of him, I thought."

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