After Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford struggled against Nashville in the opening two games of the first round series, Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville decided it was time to give 26-year-old rookie netminder Scott Darling his first career playoff start.
The move paid off nicely for Chicago as Darling turned aside 35 of 37 shots in Chicago’s 4-2 victory this afternoon. Was that enough to earn him another start in Game 4 on Tuesday?
“We’ll talk about it, but certainly he did everything he could to put himself back in the net,” Quenneville said, per the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus.
Certainly if you only look at their first round numbers, the choice seems obvious. Darling has a 0.94 GAA and .975 save percentage in two contests, including his relief appearance in Game 1. Crawford has a 6.75 GAA and .809 save percentage. And yet, Crawford is the one that got the Blackhawks into the playoffs in the first place. He’s the guy that posted a 1.84 GAA and .932 save percentage in 23 playoff games in 2013 to lead Chicago to a Stanley Cup championship. Should all he’s accomplished be dismissed after two bad games?
Perhaps. The playoffs aren’t about past results. They’re short series and who is hot and cold matters greatly, especially when it comes to netminders.
Regardless of Quenneville’s decision though, this was a great moment for Darling, who has had to work his way up after entering the campaign as the Blackhawks’ third-string goaltender.