Blackhawks News

Scott Darling Can Challenge Antti Raanta for Back-Up Job

By Andrew Gregory
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Sep 23, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling (33) makes a save during the third period against the Detroit Red Wings at the United Center. Chicago won 2-1 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

When the Blackhawks signed goaltender Scott Darling earlier in the off-season, their expectations were no more than for him to be an experienced AHL goalie. A guy who could help the Rockford Icehogs get back to contention for the Calder Cup. Last season in 26 games for the Milwaukee Admirals he had a 2.00 goals against average with a .933 save percentage. Last December, he was even named “AHL Goaltender of the Month”. It seems as though Darling may be exceeding some expectations with his play in preseason and training camp.

A 22 save shutout in last night’s Preseason game against the Oilers may have earned him a longer look from the Hawks coaching staff as a possibility to back-up Corey Crawford. The preconceived notion of most fans is that Antti Raanta is a shoe-in for the back-up job after his incredible injury relief performance last season. Raanta stayed in Chicago, after only 14 games in Rockford, and once Crawford was back fully healthy, he did not see any game action for a while. When he did start, he looked shaky. A young goaltender like Raanta needs to play regularly in order to stay in top form. Raanta will not get that in Chicago because Crawford likes playing a lot of games.

The best place for Raanta to develop is in Rockford where he can start most games, and develop his skills against slightly less experienced competition before he is ready to start in Chicago whenever Corey Crawford leaves the team or retires. If Raanta is in Rockford, the Hawks will need a back-up goalie who can perform well when Crawford needs a rest.

The team may have found that guy in Scott Darling. Even Joel Quenneville is taking note of his recent performances. When asked about whether he was surprised at Darling’s performance, Quenneville said:

"I don’t know whether I’m surprised as much as I am excited about it…"

He also mentioned that it is “tough to say” whether there is a possibility that Darling could be the back-up.

With Raanta needing to start a lot of games in order to develop, and if Darling continues to put up performance like the one tonight, he could surprise fans, coaches, and the front office alike, and become Corey Crawford’s back-up.

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