Back to Crow: ‘Hawks announce Crawford will start Wild series

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The Chicago Blackhawks have made a goaltending change.

Again.

On Monday, head coach Joel Quenneville announced that Corey Crawford would be the Game 1 starter when Chicago opens its second-round series against the Wild. The development comes after a tumultuous series against Nashville, in which Crawford opened as the starter, lost his gig to backup Scott Darling, then reclaimed the No. 1 job in the deciding Game 6 — after Darling was yanked following three goals allowed on 12 shots.

“It’s his net,” Quenneville said of Crawford, per the Chicago Sun-Times. “Let’s go.”

Part of Q’s decision to go back to Crawford could stem from last year’s second-round win over Minnesota, in which the veteran netminder played very well. Crawford stopped 150 of 162 shots faced in the six-game victory — a solid .926 save percentage — and was at his very best in the final two games, allowing just two goals on 67 shots (Chicago won both by 2-1 scores.)

It’s also possible some of Darling’s weaknesses were exposed as the Nashville series progressed. While he started brilliantly, stopping 127 of 131 shots, Darling proceeded to allow seven goals on 40 shots over his final two appearances.

Keith conquers: Blackhawks come back, eliminate Predators

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The Nashville Predators aren’t a common playoff threat for the Chicago Blackhawks, so in some ways, this blistering first-round series feels different. Even so, the usual suspects keep coming up big for the Blackhawks, so the script ended up being familiar enough.

Brent Seabrook scored the game-winner in that epic triple-OT contest in Game 4. Duncan Keith was the difference-maker not once, but twice. Patrick Kane was shockingly productive in this series even short of 100 percent; Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa were their usual dominant selves.

It almost felt inevitable when Keith scored the last game-winner, as close as this series was:

With plenty of overtime action in this series, Predators – Blackhawks felt like a seven-game classic. Chicago was able to make enough plays to end it in six, however, beating Nashville in another thriller by a score of 4-3.

Things were wild and woolly in the opening frame. James Neal scored two early goals, and after the teams traded tallies for a 3-1 Nashville lead, Joel Quenneville gave Scott Darling the hook in favor of Corey Crawford.

It wasn’t advantage: Predators for very long, however. Jonathan Toews scored on the power play and Patrick Kane fired a laser beam home late in the first to tie it up 3-3.

There was plenty of action after that, but Chicago was unable to take advantage of a significant advantage in play in the second period, including a 12-7 shot advantage. In general, it seemed like the Blackhawks were locking in to try to put away the Predators, yet both Crawford and Pekka Rinne held strong through much of the action, making for more tight proceedings.

Ultimately, Rinne was unable to turn aside an unrelenting Blackhawks attack culminating with Keith’s game-winner.

With that, the Blackhawks advance to the next round while the Predators’ surprisingly excellent season ends in heartbreak.

Time will tell if Nashville can bounce back and turn this one-off series into a budding rivalry. Whatever happens in 2015-16 and beyond, this was one of those rare gems that may very well convert new fans to the sport.

… Even if the ultimate outcome might seem predictable to some.

Neal, Predators chase Darling in little time

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Are the Nashville Predators starting to get to Scott Darling? Could it be that James Neal has the young Chicago Blackhawks netminder’s number?

It might be a little early to ask such a question, but the bottom line is that the power forward has given the Predators a nice lead so far in Game 6.

The prettiest tally was his first, as he beat Darling with a simple (but nice) move just 1:10 into the contest:

Not long after, Neal deflected a shot in for a power-play goal to make it 2-0 quite early in the game.

Getting a 2-0 lead is very nice for Nashville, but a litany of opponents would tell the Predators not to get too comfortable against the dangerous Blackhawks attack.

Still, it’s certainly a positive development for the Preds, and one can only wonder how long the leash is for Darling.

Update: It turns out that the leash is fairly short for Darling. Patrick Sharp made it 2-1, but moments later, Matt Cullen scored a 3-1 goal. Corey Crawford was summed back into the Chicago net less than 12 minutes into the first period … and that’s that.

For now?

Crawford was ‘a little pissed off at first’ with Darling starting

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With Scott Darling making his fourth straight start tonight when the Blackhawks play host to the Nashville Predators in Game 6, Corey Crawford was asked how he’s dealing with the situation.

“(I was) a little pissed off at first,” he told Chicago Sun-Times reporter Mark Lazerus. “It’s only natural. I think that’s a good thing. It shows I want to play.

“We’re up in the series, so life’s good.”

Crawford allowed three goals on 12 shots and was replaced by Darling in Game 1. Darling made 42 saves in the double-overtime victory. Crawford then started Game 2 and made 29 saves in a 6-2 loss.

The 30-year-old is 0-1 with a 6.75 G.A.A. and an .809 save percentage.

“Crow’s a good guy, a good teammate, a good pro,” said Joel Quenneville. “I’m sure he wants to play in the worst way.”

Darling is 3-1 in the series to go along with a 1.73 G.A.A. and a .950 save percentage.

Chicago to start Darling in Game 6

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There will not be another goalie switch from the Blackhawks — at least not for now.

On Friday, Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville confirmed he’d be sticking with Scott Darling as his No. 1 when the ‘Hawks host the Predators in Game 6 of their opening-round series on Saturday. Darling, who took over starting duties from Corey Crawford in Game 3, suffered his first playoff loss in Thursday’s 5-2 defeat in Nashville, and questions were asked if Darling would return to the ‘Hawks goal after allowing three goals in three minutes to start the third period.

That Q is sticking with Darling shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. He said the 26-year-old “did everything right,” last night, adding the performance was “fine.” That said, some that saw this as an opportunity to give the crease back to Crawford, who’s been the Blackhawks’ playoff starter for the majority of the last four years and backstopped them to the Stanley Cup in 2013.

Quenneville had previously left the door open for Crawford’s return.

“It’s not like he’s never going to play again,” Quenneville explained prior to Game 3, 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.”