Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Scott Darling will start Game 3 of the Western Conference first-round series against the Nashville Predators, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said on Saturday.
Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford started the first two games of the series. He was pulled from Game 1 after allowing three goals on 12 shots in the first period. He then gave up a season-high six goals in Game 2. The nine goals were the most he allowed in consecutive games all season.
Darling, a rookie, replaced Crawford in Game 1 and stopped all 42 shots he faced while the Blackhawks came back to win 4-3 in double overtime. Darling set a Stanley Cup playoff record for going the longest time without allowing a goal in a relief appearance. He played 67:44 without giving up a goal.
"It's one of those situations where both guys are getting consideration for the net. So, it made it a little tougher this call here," Quenneville said Saturday. "But Crow, we expect him to be ready and whenever he gets back in the net to be great again. We're looking for [Darling] getting a chance on how well he played. It's not so much Crow. I think it's on an earned merit there that Scotty gets the net."
Darling went 9-4-0 with a 1.95 goals-against average and .936 save percentage in the regular season. He played in the ECHL and AHL last season. He originally signed a one-year contract with the Blackhawks in July and agreed to a two-year contract extension in February.
Crawford was the Blackhawks' No. 1 goaltender throughout the regular season. He was 32-20-5 with a 2.27 goals-against average and .924 save percentage.
Quenneville said Blackhawks goalie coach Jimmy Waite informed Crawford of the decision to start Darling on Saturday. Quenneville said he will speak with Crawford on Sunday morning.
Crawford and Darling were not available to the media on Saturday, but Quenneville said it's a one-game decision for now.
"I think when you go to these tough decisions, all of a sudden you weigh them, you look at long term," Quenneville said. "It's not like [Crawford's] never going to play again. It's not like he's discarded off the team. He's still a part of it. He's a big part of it. Things change instantly in our game."
The Blackhawks and Predators are tied 1-1 in the series. Game 3 will be held in Chicago on Sunday.