The Chicago Blackhawks came from behind to win Game 1 of their playoff series against the Nashville Predators on Wednesday night, thanks in large part to some stellar goalkeeping from Scott Darling.
Darling entered the game to start the second period after Corey Crawford played horribly in the first and dug the Blackhawks into a 0-3 hole. Nashville’s second goal was scored on a brutal turnover from Crawford behind his own net.
Through two full periods and one-plus overtime period, Darling managed to stop all 42 shots he faced. He made several phenomenal saves that allowed the Blackhawks to climb back into the game and begin their playoff series with some serious momentum. Where does that leave Chicago going forward?
As Steve Rosenbloom of The Chicago Tribune notes, the Blackhawks looked like they were sleep-walking in front of Crawford. One of the goals came on a deflection and another was caused by poor defense from Michal Rozsival. Crawford ranked sixth in the regular season among goalies with a .924 save percentage and 11th with 2.27 goals allowed per game. He has also led the Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup championship.
The problem — for Crawford — is that the playoffs are all about momentum. Darling filled in admirably early in the season when Crawford suffered this embarrassing injury and compiled a record of 9-4 in spot duty, so the Blackhawks know he is capable of winning. The team clearly looked rejuvenated when Darling took over. That could result in head coach Joel Quenneville having to make a very difficult decision before Game 2.