(photo: Nick Olivier Photography)

Scott Darling has shone in the net for his NHL debut–despite the Blackhawks‘ 1-1 record since his start.

The 25-year-old Lemont, Ill. native has seen quite a few arenas on his way to the United Center, but has certainly proven his capability between the pipes now that he’s returned to sweet home Chicago.

 

‘‘It was amazing,’’ Darling said of his first home start. ‘‘I was very emotional during the national anthem. Long road to get here, and I’m just very proud to be here.’’

With a professional background in the ECHL (Florida Everblades, Wheeling Nailers, and Cincinnati Cyclones) the Southern Professional Hockey League (Louisiana Icegators and Mississippi Riverkings) and the American Hockey League (Wilkes-Barre Penguins, Hamilton Bulldogs, and Milwaukee Admirals) before the Rockford IceHogs and Sunday’s call-up against the Ottawa Senators, Darling  has diverse experience in net.

That didn’t prevent jitters before a 22,000-person sea of red Sunday, though.

‘‘I tried to give off that illusion [of being calm],’’ Darling said. ‘‘I was pretty nervous to start. But once you get hit with a few pucks, it’s just another hockey game and you just try to do your job.’’

And, that he did, making 31 saves in the 2-1 victory and earning the coveted No. 1 Star of the Game. He stopped 25 of 26 shots in the Hawks’ loss against the Anaheim Ducks Tuesday, earning No. 3 Star of the Game. He has a .966 save percentage and a 1.03 goals against average. (Other Blackhawks backup goaltender Antti Raanta has recorded a shutout and a loss in his three starts this season–with a .933 save percentage and a 2.03 goals against average.)

Can’t Dodge the Ducks

On paper, Chicago should have won Tuesday. But, that’s the nature of hockey. The Hawks outshot the Ducks 38-25 (John Gibson made those 38 saves.) They had three Power Plays to the Ducks’ one. They won 34 faceoffs to the Ducks’ 22 and had 11 takeaways to the Ducks’ four.

Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, one Anaheim takeaway turned into the game-winning goal.

Brent Seabrook was not only unable to keep the puck in the zone on a Chicago Power Play, he couldn’t  stay on his skates, either.

‘‘I’ve got to do a better job of that,’’ Seabrook said. ‘‘For whatever reason, I couldn’t get my footing after, and it was just one of those plays. . . . Just got away from me.’’

Devante Smith-Pelly took the puck to the other side of the ice and shot it past Darling for the game’s lone goal with 8:28 left to play.

 

 Hawks Narrowly Defeat Senators

Chicago honored Canada, and paid tribute to those lost in recent terrorist attacks, with a moment of silence and a heartfelt rendition of “O, Canada!”

 

The Blackhawks had 45 shots on goal (stopped by another Chicago native, Craig Anderson) to the Senators’ 33. They led in Power Plays, six to three, faceoff wins 39-28, and ultimately, the game–a close 2-1.

Neither team was able to score in the first period, but the Hawks finally broke their second period scoring drought at the start of the second.

Captain Jonathan Toews tallied the first goal with a wraparound during 4-on-4 hockey after moving the puck all the way up the ice with the help of Duncan Keith and Patrick Kane. Kane’s assist earned him his 500th career point.

At 12:52 in the second, Brad Richards allowed a turnover on the power play, giving way to a shorthanded goal by Milan Michaleck with Alex Chiasson assisting.

Finally, on a Power Play with 6:22 left in the period, and with Bryan Bickell screening Anderson, Brent Seabrook scored with a shot from the blue line on a setup from Marian Hossa and Richards.

 

Missing Links

The now 5-3-1 Blackhawks cannot seem to get in sync and play for a full game. They’ve given up sloppy shorthanded goals the last two games.

Ever-changing line formations don’t yield an increase in production. Richards hasn’t proven to be the faceoff-winning, Power Play-revamping dynamo projected when he was picked up in the offseason. Instead he and Seabrook have been guilty of some pretty brutal turnovers.

And, the team as a whole, does not have the offensive power or scoring consistency they’ll need. The team has obvious lags and doesn’t play a full 60 minutes of regulation.  They’ve scored in one second period out of nine games this season.

Luckily, it’s still early. With six months of hockey left to play, the team has time to find its strengths and capitalize on them.

They can start Thursday in Ottawa. Corey Crawford will be traveling, but it’s uncertain if he’ll be back in net. The puck drops at 6:30 p.m. CT.

Carly Mullady grew up needing to know more about icing than its deliciousness on cupcakes. She's the lone daughter of four children, with a father who was among the last cut from the Midwest tryouts for the 1980 Miracle on Ice Olympic team. And she knows very little matches the thrill that happens from puck-drop to handshakes. A rink didn’t return to her hometown until she was gone, but she’s been able to see two younger brothers on the ice. She's their feistiest fan. Her other hockey loyalty lies with the Blackhawks--whether it's meant seeing games for $8 with student IDs when the Madhouse didn’t have much of a temper at all, or dancing to Chelsea Dagger at standing room only--there’s something magical about a roaring anthem, the Indianhead sweater, and the Original Six. A former journalist and current editor, she carries a penchant for excitement (and maybe even fighting) with a resume that includes working for Chicago-area newspapers, and television, including The Jerry Springer Show, as well as NBCUniversal in New York. After East Coast living and a return to the Chicago area, the new Mrs. is giving Graceland a go with her Southern Gent, who now shares her adoration of the game, and their rescue dog, Doc Holliday. Other interests include Cubs, Bears, Illini, Crimson Tide, Pumpkin Spice Lattes, baking a mean pineapple upside-down cake, Kate Spade accessories, and a properly coordinated cardigan for every ensemble.

3 COMMENTS

  1. […] Darling battled alcohol addiction and social anxiety, costing him his spot on the team at the University of Maine. He’s hasn’t hesitated to share that experience, along with his journey toward recovery and time spent on a number of teams in a number of leagues–in the ECHL (Florida Everblades, Wheeling Nailers, and Cincinnati Cyclones), the Southern Professional Hockey League (Louisiana Icegators and Mississippi Riverkings), and the American Hockey League (Wilkes-Barre Penguins, Hamilton Bulldogs, and Milwaukee Admirals) before the Rockford IceHogs and last year’s exciting call-up to the Blackhawks. […]

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