Apr 19, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling (33) and his teammates after the Hawks win game three of the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center. The Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Nashville Predators 4-2. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Despite a rocky start, this past Sunday our beloved Chicago Blackhawks edged the Nashville Predators 4-2 to take a 2-1 lead in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Perhaps the most interesting development thus far during the Hawks’ 2015 post season has been between the pipes. To Hawks Nation’s surprise, Corey Crawford, who helped the Hawks win the Stanley Cup in 2013, was rock solid in last year’s playoffs, and by and large has been equally solid this season, completely crumbled in Game 1 and Game 2 in Nashville.
Crawford has had bad playoff games before during his career in Chicago, and the coaching staff has allowed him the opportunity to redeem himself, which for the most part, he’s stood and delivered. Which is why it was somewhat surprising to hear the announcement that Scott Darling, and not Crawford, would be getting the start for Game 3, even with the series tied 1-1 and the Hawks back on their home ice.
Many thought Darling getting the nod for Game 3, perhaps prematurely, was merely for Crawford to cool off and find his groove again, but now with the noise that Darling will be making a consecutive start for the Blackhawks for Game 4, things have gotten interesting. There are certainly many reasons why Darling has retained the starting gig, but those don’t matter now. What matters is that the Blackhawks, who slumped their way into the playoffs, have found a much needed spark in Darling.
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We all know the Hawks’ play leading up to the playoffs wasn’t exactly encouraging. Between rampant injuries, underperforming players, underwhelming trade performances, and inconsistent effort, it was hard to feel good about the way they would fare in the post season. Now with Darling backstopping for the Hawks, our boys in red, white, and black have been reinvigorated in three distinct ways:
#3 – The Hawks Have Had This Kind of Inspiration Before
Believe it or not, the Darling situation is not wholly foreign to the Blackhawks. I’m sure you’ll recall back in 2010, the Hawks entered the playoffs with an untested goalie in Antti Niemi. Yes, Niemi won the starting job from Christobal Huet at the tail end of the regular season, but was far from a known quantity in the post-season, which puts goalies through a whole new set of challenges. In the end as we all know, Niemi was up to those challenges and played his part in ending a near 50 year Stanley Cup drought in Chicago. Furthermore, the Hawks’ play in front of Darling is reminiscent of another Antti: Antti Raanta. When Raanta was filling in for the injured Crawford last year, whether consciously or subconsciously, the Hawks kept their game at the highest level to protect their novice net-minder. While it may be too early to tell, if Game 3 is any indicator, it would seem the same phenomenon is occurring with Darling between the pipes.
Apr 19, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling (33) is greeted by goalie Corey Crawford (50) after the Hawks win game three of the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center. The Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Nashville Predators 4-2. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports