Scott Darling in goal for Blackhawks vs Predators in Game 6
CHICAGO (AP) — Rookie Scott Darling will start in goal for the Blackhawks as they try to close out the Nashville Predators in Game 6 of their opening playoff round series on Saturday night in Chicago.
The Blackhawks lead the series 3-2. Chicago will try to eliminate the Predators and advance for a second time after losing 5-2 in Nashville on Thursday night with Darling in the net.
Darling had his first playoff loss after three impressive victories.
“You look at the four games he’s been in and he’s been solid, and (we’ve) been very happy with the way he’s played,” coach Joel Quenneville said Friday.
The backup to Corey Crawford during much of the regular season, the 6-foot-6 Darling has a 1.67 goals-against average in four games in his first postseason. He has allowed eight goals on 158 shots for a .950 save percentage.
Quenneville said Darling has “let only one ordinary goal go in” in his four playoff appearances. But the Blackhawks coach stopped short of saying the 26-year-old had become a fixture between the pipes for the remainder of this and future series.
“He’s playing tomorrow,” Quenneville said. “We’re only thinking about tomorrow’s game. We have to play tomorrow’s game like we have to win tomorrow’s game.”
Chicago players say they’re confident skating in front of either Darling or Crawford, who played every minute in net for the Blackhawks during their Stanley Cup championship postseason run in 2013. In the 2014-15 regular season, Crawford appeared in 57 regular-season games, posting 32 wins and a 2.27 goals-against average.
″(Quenneville) kind of runs with the hot goalie,” forward Bryan Bickell said. “It shows our depth in that position. Whoever’s in the net, we’re confident and we don’t change our game.”
Thursday’s contest was tied at 1-1 after two periods. Then Nashville’s James Neal got the go-ahead goal in the opening minute of the third to start a flurry of three goals in a span of less than 2 1/2 minutes, allowing the Predators to take charge.
But Quenneville and players placed the breakdown squarely on bad play in front of Darling, not the goalie.
Darling made a strong impression when he relieved Crawford to start the second period of Game 1 and stopped all 42 shots he faced as the Blackhawks rallied for a 4-3 double-overtime win. Crawford allowed three goals on 12 shots in the first period of that contest.
Crawford played all of Game 2, a 6-2 Nashville victory.
He allowed a soft power-play goal to Colin Wilson just 2:47 into the game. Chicago trailed only 3-2 midway through the third period, but Nashville scored three times in a 2:19 span late to pull away.
Darling started Games 3 and 4 and was sharp in both. He blocked 35 of 37 shots in Game 3 to backstop Chicago’s 4-2 win. He followed up with a 50-save performance in a 3-2 triple-overtime victory that ended early on Wednesday morning.
After cementing himself as one of the NHL’s top goalies with the 2013 championship run, Crawford was rewarded in September 2013 with a six-year contract extension that pays $6 roughly million a year and runs through 2019-20.
According to the NHL Players Association’s website, Crawford’s deal carried a $6.5 million cap hit in 2014-15.
Darling made his NHL debut with a win at Ottawa on Oct. 26 and appeared in 14 games, going 9-4-0 with a 1.94 goals-against average.