NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Joel Quenneville had never pulled Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford from a playoff game before. The coach’s experience with the veteran made putting him back in net an easy decision.
Quenneville said Thursday that Crawford will start Game 2 against the Nashville Predators on Friday night despite giving up three goals on 12 shots and getting yanked in Wednesday night’s opener. Scott Darling stopped all 42 shots he faced in his postseason debut, making save after sparkling save for more than 67 minutes in a 4-3 double overtime win.
The Blackhawks coach said the tougher decision was pulling Crawford in Game 1.
“He’s our starting goalie,” Quenneville said of Crawford. “He’s been our strength all year long. It was one period, and one collectively as a team — goaltending all the way out through the forwards — I thought our first period was ordinary at best and look forward to him getting back in the net tomorrow.”
Crawford was one of the first to congratulate Darling on his performance and the big win. But getting pulled was pretty frustrating.
“I was trying to figure out what I did wrong, some of the decisions I made,” Crawford said on a conference call. “But then again, you just have to sit on the side and encourage the other guys. Really, I had confidence in our guys to come back. I always do. This team can score goals.”
The Blackhawks came into this postseason leading the NHL with 57 wins since the 2009 playoffs, and Crawford is 32-23 at this time of year for Chicago. Quenneville said there’s no book to check telling him what to do with a potential goalie controversy.
“It’s a feel thing, and it’s not something that we’re accustomed to doing, and the decision to go back to Corey is very easy,” Quenneville said.
Their second draft pick in the 2003 draft is 147-79-34 in his career, and he went 32-20-5 this season with the Blackhawks, splitting the Jennings Trophy with Montreal and Carey Price in allowing the fewest goals in the NHL with 189. The goalie ranked sixth in the NHL with a .924 save percentage and 11th with a 2.27 goals-against average.
Nashville jumped out to a 3-0 lead through 20 minutes. Colin Wilson scored twice, and former Chicago forward Viktor Stalberg scored on a wraparound into an empty net when Crawford got caught trying to play the puck behind the net. The Predators took 58 shots, a franchise record in the postseason, against both goalies.
“Either guy they put in, we’re going to have to attack,” Nashville captain Shea Weber said.
Darling signed as a free agent last July and went 9-4-0 during the regular season. He put on a show coming in for Crawford, setting the postseason mark for most time played without allowing a goal in relief at 67 minutes, 44 seconds. He also became the first goalie in the NHL to win his playoff debut in relief since Steve Shields on April 1997.
Of his 42 saves, 23 came in the overtimes, and he became the first rookie with 42 saves or more in his first playoff appearance since Jose Theodore made 56 with Montreal on April 24, 1997.
“Certainly last night was one of those games for the memory books and great for him as well,” Quenneville said of Darling.
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