NASHVILLE, Tenn. – I think Corey Crawford just let in another goal.
It’s time for a change, but more importantly, it’s time for a spark. Crawford is not the Blackhawks’ biggest problem in their first-round series with the Predators, but it’s very possible that rookie goalie Scott Darling is the biggest solution. That’s a difficult thing to write. It reeks of complete panic, and that’s not what the Hawks are about. This a team that hits bumps, shrugs and bounces back. We’ve seen it over and over again.
And Crawford helped keep the Hawks on track while they struggled during the regular season. Did I mention he has also won a Stanley Cup?
But there’s something missing in this series, even if it’s only two games old. That’s not Crawford’s fault, though he wasn’t at all sharp Friday in a 6-2 loss to the Predators. The defense has been awful in front of him. But in four periods of work, he has given up nine goals on 47 shots. Those numbers speak the truth.
This is a sport of feel and hunches and momentum, and none of it is in the Hawks’ favor in a series that is tied 1-1.
“We’ll see,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said, when asked if he would go back to Darling for Game 3 on Sunday.
In Game 1, Quenneville pulled Crawford after the first period, when Nashville jumped to a 3-0 lead, and inserted Darling. I thought the move was premature. Darling went on to make 42 saves as the Hawks roared back to win 4-3 in double overtime.
The next day, with lots of people calling for Darling to be the Game 2 starter, Quenneville announced that Crawford would be in net Friday night. He makes the right decision more often than not, but this one backfired on him.
He called it a “gut’’ decision. His detractors hate his gut and probably his guts, too.
“I think you’ve got your gut, your instincts,’’ he said of his approach to making some decisions. “You go into a game with an idea [of] who you’d want against who, or what matchup. [If] it’s not working, it’s easy to try something else. When’s the time to try something else? Technically, you can make adjustments in games, when is it time to change? But over time you get a little more predictable in those decisions and it’s not so much gut, it’s a little bit more of a history.”
Quenneville is a good coach. You might not get that sense if you spent reading about him on the Internet. Depending on which fan blog or message board you’re perusing, he’s either too this or too that. Forget all that.
He’s two of this: Stanley Cup champion.
That’s the nuclear warhead to any carping about Q. He has won two championships with the Hawks. That doesn’t mean there should be a ban on discussions about his shortcomings, but it does mean you’d need a microscope to see those shortcomings in the grand scheme of things.
While the goalie change needs to be made, let’s not make this a referendum on Quenneville’s coaching ability.
Q likes Darling. He has made no secret of that. He likes the rags-to-riches story of the Lemont kid who bounced around the minor leagues until finding a home with the Hawks this season. And Darling has fed off that.
“Just the confidence he has shown in me has been big for my confidence – just the fact that he’s willing to play me in the regular season in important games and the fact that he felt comfortable to put me in the other night,’’ Darling said before Game 2. “He builds my confidence by the confidence he shows in me.’’
The Predators lost Mike Fisher in Game 1 and Shea Weber in Game 2, and the Hawks couldn’t take advantage of it Friday night. Actually, that last sentence is much too passive. The Hawks watched the opportunity pass them by. Better.
They need to pick it up. Sometimes, a little boost from the coach helps. A change of pace can do wonders. The Hawks can worry about what this might do to Crawford’s confidence later. They have bigger things to worry about now.
I fully expect the Hawks to win this series, but they showed a lot of vulnerability while splitting two games here.
Darling said Quenneville is “the kind of coach you’d go through a wall for.’’
Here’s hoping he gets the chance to prove it in Game 3 at the United Center.