Joel Quenneville rarely changes his lineup after a big win. He’s not about to start now.
Scott Darling will start in net for the Blackhawks in Game 4 of their first-round playoff series with the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night, his second straight start after Corey Crawford gave up nine goals in four periods over the first two games.
Darling made 35 saves in a 4-2 win in Game 3.
“It’s tough to make a change when you like everything about the game,” Quenneville said. “He played so well. Very deserving. I think it was an easy choice.”
Darling has handled the pressure as well as anyone could have expected so far.
“There’s expectations every time you step in the net,” he said. “Nobody holds themselves to a higher standard than I do. I want to be the best every time I play. I’m just trying to do my best.”
Darling is gaining national fame for his unusual road to his hometown Hawks. Last year at this time, he was in the AHL. Before that, he was in the ECHL and the Southern Professional Hockey League after battling drinking problems early in his career. Quenneville has been impressed by Darling’s poise.
“Pretty big stage,” Quenneville said. “He’s done a lot of cool things here this year, right from the outset. He came in and got everybody’s attention at training camp. Played well in the exhibition games, and all of a sudden he gets a chance in the playoffs here. He’s done an outstanding job, played well in [the United Center], played some big games on the road. Doesn’t get rattled, doesn’t change his demeanor no matter what the situation is. He’s got a smile on his face, he’s happy to be here. Good story.”
As for Crawford, he was again the first person to greet Darling after the game, embracing him for a big hug with a big smile.
“He’s been playing awesome,” Crawford said. “He’s been seeing the puck really well. He’s given our guys confidence too. He’s done everything well, just tell him to roll with it, keep going. He’s been playing awesome, so you’ve just got to keep going.
“Scott’s an awesome guy. He’s gone through a lot to get here and he’s been playing awesome. How can you not feel good for him?”