Editorials

Chicago Blackhawks: Goaltending Beyond Scott Darling

By Mario Tirabassi
Jan 26, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling (33) looks on during the second period of the game against the Winnipeg Jets at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 26, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling (33) looks on during the second period of the game against the Winnipeg Jets at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports /
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Blackhawks Have Questions Looming In Net

Over the Summer, BlackhawkUp featured an article about a potential problem brewing with the Chicago Blackhawks goaltending situation. In that feature, Michael Leighton and Drew MacIntyre were in the fold of the Blackhawks goaltending depth. Since then, Leighton and MacIntyre have left and Chicago has brought in Jeff Glass at the AHL level for the Rockford IceHogs and have moved him up to the NHL on an emergency basis. The emergency basis being caused by Scott Darling going down with an upper-body injury and potentially missing three weeks of action.

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With Darling missing time short-term and his long-term future being in question, what do the Blackhawks have behind starter Corey Crawford?

While Glass has been called-up to the Blackhawks to back-up Crawford, no one expects Glass to see any ice-time due to the Blackhawks being in the middle of a tight race with the Minnesota Wild for Western Conference supremacy.

So how can the Blackhawks know what they have moving forward for goaltending options without playing Glass or their other depth goalie/NHL call-up Lars Johansson? I spoke with Dan Cohen of WREX in Rockford about what the situation is like between the pipes for the IceHogs and what options the Blackhawks have moving forward.

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Q & A With Dan Cohen

On why the IceHogs have struggled in net this season with Lars Johansson and Mac Carruth:

"DC: I think it boils down to the lack of defensive depth in the minor league system. The goalies are being asked to go out there with not a lot of help in front of them and it comes with what Stan [Bowman] has done over the last few years. He’s gotten rid of Stephen Johns, Klas Dahlbeck, Adam Clendening; not All-Star NHL defenseman by any means at all but they were reliable AHL defensmen and that’s why the IceHogs have been so decent the last two years, is because of their depth on the blue-line.Sep 30, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Lars Johansson (31) stands for the national anthem before playing the Pittsburgh Penguins in a preseason hockey game at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Penguins won 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY SportsIt also helps that they had Michael Leighton and it kind of blew my mind that they let him walk in free agency. He carried a six-figure cap hit and he’s got 20 wins in the AHL in his last two seasons, and now he’s in Carolina’s system. As far as Carruth, he isn’t trusted to start at the AHL level. I think he has 11 wins in his last two seasons, including this year. Lars has been fine, he’s good post to post and sees the puck well, he just doesn’t have good defense in front of him. Moving forward I think that Johansson is a decent option, but Carruth hasn’t been trusted when called upon. So if Darling does walk in free agency, I think that would be a mistake because they just don’t have a lot going on at the AHL level."

On the signing and extension of Jeff Glass and what he could bring to the Blackhawks as a backup:

"Glass has been pretty strong. He already has two shutouts already this year and he’s been in the room for a short amount of time since they got him and you notice that he really is a good ‘locker-room guy.’ He came in knowing he wouldn’t be ‘the guy’ and he said happy to be here and to get an opportunity. He came in on a PTO contract and the fact that he already has an extension with Chicago shows that he’s made a good first impression."

On the possibility of Scott Darling leaving in free agency and what Chicago’s options are:

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"If the Blackhawks have any prospects in Juniors or Internationally that they could bring in, I don’t see why they would bring them in on the cheap. I think if they let both Carruth and Johansson go, you’re asking for trouble. I think one or both of them will be back.They could also sign another free agent on the cheap this off-season. There are plenty of goalies that ill be available this summer, or why not bring a guy like Leighton back on a one-year deal if he feels he could still contribute at the minor-league level.There are going to be plenty of teams that will need some help in net and Darling would be a guy who can come in and start. He’s won a Stanley Cup. I certainly would pony up for him if he’s available."

My thanks again to Dan Cohen of WREX in Rockford for taking the time to talk on a Sunday.

With the division race being as tight as it is, the Blackhawks figure to ride out the rest of the season with Crawford in net as long as Darling is on the shelf. It would figure to be beneficial to see what a goalie like Glass or Johansson has at the NHL level while Darling is away, but that seems to be out of the cards for the time being.

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