It’s been a difficult couple of weeks for the Chicago Blackhawks. After having a seemingly great and competitive season for the most part, they’ve dropped off the radar a bit recently. Now, it seems they are battling to keep themselves out of the Wild Card zone.
To add insult to injury, goaltender Corey Crawford is now day-to-day with an upper body injury. During the Hawks’ rough patch, Crawford has been blamed by some for the amount of goals scored against the team. In the 5-2 loss to the Dallas Stars on March 11th, Crawford was pulled in favor of Scott Darling. With Crawford out, what must the Hawks do to get back to winning?
Oh My Darling
It starts at the back with Scott Darling, who is likely to start every game in Crawford’s absence. The Hawks have
recalled Michael Leighton from the Rockford IceHogs to back up Darling. Leighton is no stranger to the NHL having previously played for the Nashville Predators, Philadelphia Flyers and Carolina Hurricanes. So far this season, Leighton has played 46 games with 28 wins and five shutouts for the IceHogs.
Scott Darling has proved to be a great backup for Crawford for the last two seasons. During the playoffs last year, Darling was Crawford’s replacement in the first round for a few games. In those games, Darling earned himself three big wins. At the White House last month, the President named Darling as one of the unsung heroes. Because of his help in those victories, the Hawks moved to the next round, and eventually won the Stanley Cup.
What Darling needs to remember is that he is a good goalie. He has made some unbelievable saves when he’s needed to. The Hawks need to work together to get behind Darling and make sure he is well protected.
Strong Net Front Presence
The Hawks also need to work on their scoring opportunities. The shots on goal have been fairly average for the Hawks. Even in the 5-0 loss to the LA Kings on March 14th, the shots on goal went in favour of the Hawks. What they need to do is create more rebounds and crash the net with those opportunities. With big scoring players like Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin, and Artem Anisimov, there are more chances for them to get the puck in the back of the net.
Head coach Joel Quenneville played around with the lines for the Flyers game on March 16th. He put Patrick Kane back
on the top line with Jonathan Toews. In the past, the combination of Kane and Toews was nothing short of magic. With the need to try and create more scoring chances, this is something that could help. However, it has been announced that Quenneville will be going back to using the line he was before the game against the Flyers.
The Chicago Blackhawks travelled to Winnipeg last night (March 18th) and they didn’t slip up, defeating the Jets 4-0. The much awaited victory saw Scott Darling record his second career shutout and his first one of the season. Darling has also set himself a record for being the first NHL goalie to achieve a shutout exactly one year apart! On March 18th 2015, Darling recorded a shutout against the New York Rangers.
Moving forward, the Hawks’ schedule looks like it should be fairly kind to them for the remainder of the regular season. With this in mind, the Hawks need to win as many points as possible in order to get themselves into a good position for the upcoming playoffs.