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.

 

 

Hawks Talk Podcast: Predicting who Blackhawks will take at No. 3 overall

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AP

Hawks Talk Podcast: Predicting who Blackhawks will take at No. 3 overall

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Slavko Bekovic and Charlie Roumeliotis react to the Olli Maatta trade and how this impacts the Blackhawks' defensive group. Is this the first of more moves to come?

The guys then break down their top-three candidates for the Blackhawks at No. 3 overall and predict who the pick will be on Friday. They also discuss how the Blackhawks' selection may impact the offseason and the big picture going forward.

0:40 – Initial reaction to the Olli Maatta trade

3:45 – How Maatta fits with the Blackhawks

7:45 – Filling Dominik Kahun’s spot

10:00 – Maatta’s contract situation

11:00 – Our top-3 draft predictions

18:30 – Official predictions on who the Blackhawks will pick

24:30 – Is there a wrong pick in the top 10?

27:30 – If the Blackhawks don’t pick D, the forward is…?

29:30 – How the Blackhawks selections shape the offseason

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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How Erik Karlsson’s extension with Sharks impacts Blackhawks, Western Conference

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USA TODAY

How Erik Karlsson’s extension with Sharks impacts Blackhawks, Western Conference

The 2019 NHL free agent class — both restricted and unrestricted — is absolutely loaded. But perhaps the biggest fish of them all has already been taken off the board.

Erik Karlsson and the San Jose Sharks have agreed to an eight-year extension worth $11.5 million per year, according to Cap Friendly, becoming the highest-paid defenseman in league history. It’s a significant move for the Sharks, who are looking to keep the band together and take a few more stabs at a Stanley Cup before their window starts to close — Joe Thornton is 39, Joe Pavelski turns 35 in July, Brent Burns is 34, Marc-Edouard Vlasic is 32 and Logan Couture is 30.

How the Sharks make the math work going forward will be fascinating to monitor. Thornton, if he doesn't decide to hang up the skates, is a UFA. Same with Pavelski, who is coming off one of the most productive seasons of his career. Both of those players have become part of the Sharks identity, but their futures aren't guaranteed. And then there are guys like Kevin Labanc and Timo Meier, both of whom are RFAs and due big raises.

So how does the Karlsson extension impact the Blackhawks and the rest of the Western Conference?

For starters, the UFA defensemen class just got thinner and that could lead to overpayment across the board from teams looking for impact-type blue-liners because general managers that are looking to make a splash don’t want to come away empty-handed. The Blackhawks were never going to be in on Karlsson, but his contract set the market for this year's class and the fact the signing came before the NHL Draft now gives teams that would've been in on Karlsson an opportunity to refocus ahead of the negotiating period.

In the bigger picture, the Sharks just solidified themselves as legitimate Stanley Cup contenders for at least the next couple seasons. While the Karlsson contract may not look the greatest on the back half, given his durability issues, the Sharks had no choice but to offer him a blank check. When healthy, he is a game-changer and a two-time Norris Trophy winner who's still in his prime, and if the Sharks win a title in the next couple years then it was well worth it. You don't let players like him walk.

The Blackhawks are expected to be aggressive over the next several weeks, particularly in free agency but also continuing to explore the trade market. We already saw that when they acquired defenseman Olli Maatta from the Pittsburgh Penguins, a move that could only be the first of many this offseason. The West might be top heavy, but this past season proved that any team can turn it around quickly and the Blackhawks need to do everything in their power to make sure they're one of those teams.

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