Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago ‘will talk about’ Game 6 starter

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So… what now for the ‘Hawks?

Corey Crawford hasn’t played since Game 2 of Chicago’s opening-round series against Nashville, when he was torched for six goals on 35 shots in a blowout loss. That, of course, came on the heels of a disappointing opener, in which he was hooked after allowing three goals on 12 shots in the first period.

All told, Chicago’s No. 1 netminder for the majority of this season… has a postseason save percentage of .809.

But even after getting parked in favor of Scott Darling, Crawford remained a viable option to return — head coach Joel Quenneville said as much prior to making the switch in Game 3.

“It’s not like he’s never going to play again,” Quenneville explained, per the Chicago Sun-Times. “It’s not like he’s discarded off the team. He’s still a part of it, he’s a big part of it.”

So if the door is open to using Crawford again, would it make sense to exercise that option in Game 6 on Saturday? After all, Darling left plenty to be desired in tonight’s 5-2 loss to Nashville.

“We’ll talk about it, but he did everything right,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville told the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus. “He was fine.”

Even if you disagree with Quenneville’s assessment that Darling “did everything right,” that’s still just one bad game after three brilliant performances. At the same time, you have to ask: All things being equal, who gives Chicago the best chance to win in Game 6? Darling, who has done a great job in 2014-15, but also has just 18 regular season and playoff games under his belt, or Crawford, who has won the Stanley Cup and had a great campaign prior to his early playoff struggles?

It’s not an easy call and no matter who Quenneville picks, Blackhawks fans will likely wonder about the road not traveled if Nashville wins again on Saturday.

Preds, Forsberg finally solve Darling, push series to Game 6

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The Nashville Predators’ backs are against the ropes, but they’re still swinging. After spending the better part of the contest tied, Nashville broke out early in the third period to earn a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks.

On the same day that he was officially left off the list of Calder Trophy finalists, 20-year-old forward Filip Forsberg led the charge for the Predators with a hat trick. He scored their first goal at 14:42 of the first period to swiftly end Chicago’s early one-goal edge. He chipped in again in the third period to round out Nashville’s remarkable run of three goals in under three minutes:

Patrick Kane and Kris Versteeg combined for a beautiful goal with just over five minutes remaining in the contest, but at that point it wasn’t enough to change the course of this game. Chicago went into tonight with an opportunity to eliminate the Predators and they couldn’t get the job done.

With the net empty, Forsberg was able to collect his final marker of the contest with 11 seconds to spare.

Blackhawks goaltender Scott Darling had a commanding .969 save percentage in his first three playoff contests, but the 26-year-old rookie netminder had a rough game tonight, stopping just 24 of 28 shots. Meanwhile Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews were each limited to a pair of shots on goal.

The silver lining for the Blackhawks is that they have another chance to advance in Game 6 on Saturday and this time the Blackhawks will be playing at home.

 

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoff TV schedule for tonight

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A quick look at what games will be on what channels in tonight’s Stanley Cup playoff action…

Lightning at Red Wings, 7:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Petr Mrazek is a big reason why the Detroit Red Wings are in a position to take a 3-1 series lead tonight. The 23-year-old is 7-5-1 with a .935 save percentage and four shutouts since Feb. 5. Mrazek is also 3-1 with two shutouts and a .945 in four starts against the Lightning. For the Bolts, Steven Stamkos is slumping. The captain has just two assists in his last four games and three assists in his last 13. Against the Wings, Stamkos has been held without a goal in four games. He’s failed to register a goal in six straight postseason games overall. John Forslund and Andy Brickley have the call of Game 4 tonight.

Islanders at Capitals, 7:00 p.m. ET on CNBC

Nicklas Backstrom is leading the charge for the Washington Capitals, who will look to take a 3-2 series lead tonight. Backstrom has three goals and three assists in the first four games of the series including the overtime winner in the Caps’ Game 4 win. Islanders’ captain John Tavares was held off the score sheet on Tuesday for the first time since March 28, but the Verizon Center has been a welcoming environment for Tavares, who has five points in four games in Washington. Kenny Albert and Pierre McGuire will be on the call tonight.

Blackhawks at Predators 9:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN

The Chicago Blackhawks will look to finish things off against the Nashville Predators tonight as the series moves to the Bridgestone Arena for Game 5. Brent Seabrook scored a minute into the third overtime and Scott Darling made 50 saves as Chicago took a commanding 3-1 series lead with a 3-2 win early Wednesday morning. The Blackhawks have won seven of 10 postseason meetings between the two clubs and three of five in Nashville. Gord Miller and Joe Micheletti are on the call for Game 5.

Flames at Canucks 10:00 p.m. ET on CNBC

Like the Blackhawks, the Calgary Flames can wrap up their series with the Vancouver Canucks with a win tonight. The Flames used a 3-1 win on Tuesday night to take a stranglehold on the series heading back to Vancouver for Game 5. The Calgary Flames haven’t won a playoff series since 2004 – the year they lost in the final to the Tampa Bay Lightning. This is their sixth series since the ’04 playoffs. Calgary has lost its last five games when they’ve had opponents on the brink of elimination. Jim Hughson, Craig Simpson and Scott Oake have the call tonight.

Quenneville: ‘It might be the year of the backup goalie’

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Goaltender Corey Crawford has led the Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup championship, but when Chicago attempts to eliminate Nashville on Thursday, he won’t be playing between the pipes. Rookie Scott Darling has been a big part of the first round series and will get another start in Game 5.

It’s an impressive, yet oddly common story this season. If you look at the GAA leaders so far in the 2015 postseason, you won’t see Carey Price or Henrik Lundqvist listed in the top-three. Instead it’s Darling, Devan Dubnyk, and Jake Allen. Three netminders who weren’t in starting roles when the campaign began. Then there’s Petr Mrazek, who shutout the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday to give Detroit a 2-1 series lead.

“It might be the year of the backup goalie this year,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville told CSN Chicago. “Somebody you’ve never heard of may get an opportunity and all of a sudden is a key guy. We all know the importance of the goalie and how the guy who is playing well is getting that net. Sometimes it’s competitive with internal competition but at the same time the rapport is excellent [with the normal starter] and it’s a healthy situation to be in.”

The question is if this trend will continue. Dubnyk really can’t be regarded as a backup anymore and that’s been true since Minnesota acquired him, but if Darling, Allen, or Mrazek falter, then their respective teams might not wait long to replace them.

We’ve already seen Ottawa’s Andrew Hammond be relegated to warming the bench despite his tremendous regular season run and Vancouver’s Eddie Lack was yanked early in Tuesday’s contest. Even still, at this point it’s entirely possible that the goaltender who leads his team to a Stanley Cup championship will be one that didn’t hold the starting job at the beginning of the season.

Toews, Bergeron, Kopitar are the Selke Trophy finalists

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Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, Boston Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron and Los Angeles Kings forward Anze Kopitar have been selected as the three finalists for the Selke Trophy. The trophy rewards the league’s best forward from a defensive standpoint.

Bergeron is looking to claim the award for the third time in just four years. He led the league in 2014-15 with a 60.2 success rate on the draw, had 48 takeaways, and a plus-two rating over 81 games. From an analytics perspective, he had a great season with a Fenwick percentage of 57.36 in 5-on-5 situations compared to the Bruins’ Fenwick of 48.01% when he was off the ice. In other words, Boston was far better when it came to possessing the puck when he was on the ice.

That translates to a Fenwick Relative percentage of plus-9.35, which was the second highest in the league among players that logged at least 800 total minutes of ice time.

Toews won the Selke Trophy back in 2013. He finished with the fifth highest plus/minus rating at plus-30 and his 56.5% on the draw ranked sixth in the NHL. He also had 45 takeaways in 81 contests.

His Fenwick numbers weren’t as impressive as Bergeron, but were still strong. Toews had a 54.02 Fenwick percentage compared to Chicago’s 51.84% when he was off the ice.

For Kopitar, this is his second nomination in as many days as he was list among the Lady Byng finalists last night. He had a faceoff percentage in 2014-15 was 52.6, a minus-two rating, and 29 takeaways. While those numbers aren’t great compared to his competitors, he looks much better from a Fenwick perspective.

His 5-on-5 Fenwick percentage was 58.93 in 2014-15 compared to Los Angeles’ 53.16% when he wasn’t on the ice. He also had the highest 5-on-5 Fenwick plus/minus of the three candidates at plus-260, which measures the unblocked shots his team took while he was on the ice against the unblocked shots his opponents took.