The Chicago Blackhawks late Tuesday night, or early Wednesday morning if you prefer, once again worked their postseason magic by taking down the Nashville Predators 3-2. Their triple overtime victory in game four of their Western Conference first round playoff series has given the Hawks a 3-1 series lead. They once again rode the back of goaltender Scott Darling who continues to have a dominant postseason. Since taking over for Corey Crawford, Darling has set a new standard for rookie goalies. Here’s a look at Darling’s outstanding performance in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Darling has stopped 127-of-131 total shots this postseason, including 50-of-52 in game four. He’s only allowed four goals over his last 228 minutes of ice time. He also leads all playoff goalies in goals against average (0.94), save percentage (.975), and is tied for first in playoff victories (3). Numbers aside, Darling’s intangibles also put him head and shoulders above other players at his position.
His Physical Ability
His instincts, including his ability to track down, block and deflect pucks are uncanny. He doesn’t get beat by opposing players coming around the net, he can handle himself in one-on-one situations, and doesn’t let the pressure to get to him. He has amazed us all with his skill to sniff out pucks in the most crowded settings. Darling has become a natural in the spotlight, a force of nature on the ice and has put the rest of the league on notice.
The Effect On His Teammates
There’s no question that Darling has inspired his teammates. The Hawks play more aggressively on both sides of the blue line with him between the pipes. Darling also makes things a lot easier for the Blackhawks defensemen. His phenomenal saves take pressure off of the other five Hawks on the ice at any given time. Plus, he can cover for any defensive fundamental mistakes. But the biggest difference has been on the penalty kill. With Darling in net the Hawks have killed 12 of the last 13 Nashville power plays.
Corey Crawford had his time and he was great more often than not. But this time there is no doubt that Darling is the key to another Stanley Cup Trophy for the Blackhawks. If he can carry his fearless style of play into game five on Thursday night, the Hawks will advance to the second round. Follow me on Twitter @GabeSalgado82
Gabe has worked in sports media for over decade and has been heard on the radio, and seen on television in addition to writing.