Nobody would have blamed the Blackhawks if they had given Scott Darling the start Sunday night against the Vancouver Canucks. On Friday in Boston, Darling made 30 saves to lead the Hawks to a 1-0 win over the Bruins. He looked sharp and locked in, while Corey Crawford has struggled since returning from an appendectomy with a mediocre .903 save percentage.
But instead of riding the hot hand, the Hawks are going back to their starter.
Coach Joel Quenneville said Crawford will start Sunday night at the United Center. Crawford will get a chance at his 200th career win, and of more importance to the 2016-17 Hawks, will have an opportunity to get back to the all-star form he was in before his absence.
There was some thought of staying with Darling, but Quenneville had other ideas.
“That was definitely something we wanted to think. At the same time we want Crow playing as much as he can to get back to that great pace he had prior to him being away,” Quenneville said. “But he hasn’t been bad. But certainly that’s what we’re looking for him to get back to. I like giving Darls some consideration. We’ll see, but certainly enhanced his positioning.”
Even considering the recent form, there’s no doubt about the Hawks’ hierarchy in net. Crawford is the starter, and Darling isn’t That said, Darling isn’t the typical reserve.
“I think that Darls is, I guess you’d say more than just a backup. I think he gives us that depth,” Quenneville said. “When he gets that opportunity to play he’s certainly taken advantage and proven he can be a regular and a go-to guy. Whether you call that luxury or depth in the goaltending position, it’s certainly one of our strengths.”
Another strength could be how clear the goalie depth chart is. There’s no debate, no discussion and certainly no controversy.
“Our situation is pretty clear here,” Darling said. “Corey’s number 1, and for good reason. He’s played amazing for this team and for a long time. It’s nice to play well when you play and that’s really all I can do.”
Brian Campbell echoed that.
“I think the coaching staff’s made it clear that he’s number 1 but I think Scott’s been so good that it doesn’t matter for us who’s in goal,” Campbell said. “When Corey was hurt, Scott comes in. It’s not like we had to play differently or change anything up because he does the same thing that Corey does every night.”
In the end, having two strong goalies who share a strong relationship will only help the Hawks.
“I think they’ve both have a good rapport with one another,” Quenneville said. “I think they both want to play. Corey keeps getting better and Darls keeps getting better. We like their course of developing. Either way, I think pushing one another is heathy as well.”
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