Darling Leads Blackhawks Past Penguins

Yes, Patrick Kane had a hat trick on Wednesday night in front of a national audience.

Yes, Kane’s three-point night pushed him past Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby into second in the NHL with 68 points.

But the story of the night was goaltender Scott Darling, who was absolutely magnificent between the pipes against a superb offensive Penguins team as the Blackhawks beat Crosby and Company 4-1 at the United Center.

The first period came and went with little noteworthy action for either side. Justin Schultz went to the box at 14:44 to give the Blackhawks the game’s only power play, which was uneventful. Chicago out-shot Pittsburgh 9-7 in the period, and both goaltenders were on their games.

Early in the second period, Artem Anisimov disappeared up the tunnel for attention to a lower-body issue and he did not return to the game. The Blackhawks were already playing without Niklas Hjalmarsson, who was placed on IR on Tuesday, and newly-acquired Johnny Oduya wasn’t ready to join the lineup yet. Now, the Hawks were down their number two center.

Never fear, Nick Schmaltz is here.

Schmaltz, who has been hot over the last six weeks while skating with Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik, moved back to his natural position of center in the absence of Anisimov and was outstanding. Ryan Hartman bumped up to skate with Toews and Panik and agitated Crosby throughout the game while creating a few scoring chances of his own.

And at 8:49 into the second, Schmaltz set up Kane for his first of the night.

Pittsburgh’s Scott Wilson tied the game, but nobody was sure that he had scored. Play continued for some time after Wilson raised his stick in celebration, and nearly 30 seconds later the officials stopped play to have a chat with Toronto. Review showed that Wilson had scored a goal, and the game was tied at one with three minutes left in the second.

Then RICHARD PANIK DID WHAT?

Panik’s 17th of the year came with 24 seconds left in the second period as the Hawks put a lot of pressure on Pittsburgh, but Marc-Andre Fleury had a really good game of his own.

Pittsburgh out-shot Chicago 17-14 in the second, but the Hawks carried a 2-1 lead into the third.

Early in the final period Pittsburgh carried the action and put a ton of pressure on the Hawks, but Darling was fabulous.

Chicago held onto their one-goal lead until almost three minutes were left in regulation. That’s when Schmaltz set up Kane once again.

The two-goal lead held into the final two minutes and the Penguins pulled Fleury. Panik fired a puck into the empty net with a minute left in regulation, but the officials ruled that Hartman was guilty of a hand pass to set up the scoring opportunity.

It didn’t matter. Kane stayed on the attack and put a tricky backhander into the empty net from the corner to give him his second hat trick in three games and the Blackhawks a 4-1 victory.

In total, Schmaltz spent 7:12 on the ice with Kane and picked up two assists with Anisimov missing from action. The rookie also blocked three shots and was credited with three takeaways in a strong all-around performance. He did win only three of 11 faceoffs, however.

Chicago’s best performer at the dot was another rookie, though. Tanner Kero won eight of nine draws to lead the Hawks. Toews won half of his 14 faceoffs and Marcus Kruger, who hasn’t taken many faceoffs since returning from injury, won six of ten in the game.

Schmaltz finished tied with Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook for the team lead with his three blocked shots. Hartman led the way with four hits and also put four shots on net.

Newcomer Tomas Jurco, in his second game with the Hawks, skated 11:44 with one hit and one blocked shot.

Darling stopped 36 of 37 in a matchup of Stanley Cup contenders.

Sidney Crosby was minus-two with zero points in the loss.

23 thoughts on “Darling Leads Blackhawks Past Penguins

  1. Oh My Darling-Oh My Darling!!!

    8,14,38 with real nice games

    Kempny continues to improve

    Kruger – looked better/more active than last several games

  2. Now, on to comments about tonight’s game.

    Darling deservedly #1 star. WOW! Making a strong case for Stan to shop CC and save a mil or two in cap space. We’ll see how it all plays out down the stretch and playoffs.

    I tried to watch Jurco as much as I could tonight and he’s not making a big impact but I like what I see so far. He skates very well and gets engaged in the play. I’m sure he’s still kind of feeling his way around but so far so good. Give him time and maybe he’ll prove Stan pulled another rabbit out of his hat.

    Schmaltz. WOW! Keep it up lad.

    Hammer and Oduya can’t get in the lineup soon enough. I’ve seen enough of Rozy. His weak pass out to the red line was captured by an onrushing Pens player and boom a second later it was in the net … even though it took Toronto a couple minutes to blow the horn and call it a goal. That bad pass caught Kempny heading out of the zone and by the time he turned around the goal scorer was past him and putting the puck in the net. It all started because Rozy got caught “hot potato-ing” it and made a weak play.

    If AA is out a few weeks, I wonder if they call up Hino or maybe ramp up the effort to sign Shalunov?

  3. Schmaltz made a great play to join the rush on that third goal and then an even better one to set up Kane. Watching 72-8-88 tonight (and nothing against Arty) but I wondered if this might become the line of future years. Hard to believe he was in Rockford a couple of months ago. It’s exciting to watch him on every shift right now.

  4. Great game. They say “Your best players have to be your best players”, and the Hawks lately have a lot of “best players”. (I can’t resist,) Panik is “just a guy” – he’s been playing well and improving all year. (Maybe Jurco will develop into “just a guy” if he gets a chance.) Darling – “shitgoddam”!! – almost makes you want to see Stan move Crawford (that “moneyball” thing)? Schmaltz is playing like the guy Stan B traded-up/passed on Fabbri to draft…keep it coming!! Hartman — does ANYONE really miss Shaw?

    GO HAWKS!!

  5. Most importantly quite a roll.
    Darling and the lack of finish by the Penguins helped-the defense, and forwards did a good job in spurts turning the puck over (and over). 4 makes such a difference, as Rosie, Seabs and TVR aren’t exactly fleet footed.
    But the growth of 14, 38 and 8 has been the blessing for this team this year–didn’t see them being this good this soon.
    Schmaltz or Fabbri? I’ll take 8. Sometimes you just need to be patient.

  6. That game was a real treat to watch at the UC, and I’m sure for the national tv audience as well. Two good hockey teams going at it with lots of transition rushes creating excellent scoring chances. The game was much closer than the final score would indicate. Darling and Fleury were both really good. Goalies have been on top of their games in both the recent St Louis and Pens contests. What a luxury to have Darling whose game has grown to the point where he is likely to be in big demand after the season. He certainly looks ready to assume a #1 position, and he is going to get a well deserved pay raise. Would be awesome if the Hawks could find a way to keep him and Crow together.

    Schmaltz was simply fantastic last night, again! Anisimov left the game with what appeared to be a shot block injury just above the knee?? Schmaltz, Kane, and Panarin looked dangerous together. The Schmaltz takeaway at center ice via deft stick work to set up Kane for the first tally was a thing of beauty. This kid committing to playing a strong 2 way game is fantastic. Same can be said for Hartman who had yet another whale of a game. Maybe my eyes deceived me last night, but it seemed like Hartman missed some shifts in the 3rd. I was worried like Anisimov that he had been hurt.Glad to see him out there late in the 3rd anyway. Q has complete trust in the rookies in key situations.

    So what was going on with these extended player huddles by the Pens to delay face offs? Why were the linesman letting them get away with this? Funny thing was the hawks won draws each time these BS delay huddles took place.

    Toews always plays great and raises his game against Crosby.

    Panik quick shot release almost put up a second goal with that rocket off the post. Earlier Panik goal was a real beauty and should make the highlight reel.

    Wilson goal was a no brainer. There was no tell tale ping sound off the cross bar on that one. UC scoreboard guy accidentally blew the horn when play stopped and the review would commence. Never heard that before. I think someone pushed the wrong button.

    Hawks did a great job of clearing loose pucks in front of Darling. Forwards did a good job of getting back to help again.

    Too many Hawks giveaways last night. Kane and Panarin had a couple of bad ones and as ER said Rozy turned one over in transition that immediately looked like a ruh, roh chance going the other way. Yes, it will be a welcome sight to see 4 and 27 paired together asap.

    This stretch has been really fun to watch. Hawks on a big time roll. The key now is to get/stay healthy going into playoffs.

    Lets Go Hawks!!

  7. If Roszival is on the ice during OT in a playoff game, I will have the paramedics waiting outside my house. He was an unmitigated disaster last night. He gave up the lone Pitt goal; every time (not often) the Pens had sustained pressure in the Hawks’ zone, he was skating in circles around Darling.

    Rozy served a very useful purpose in the ’13 Cup run. It’s four years later, he presence on the roster — let alone on the ice playing — is not healthy. If the Hawks love him so much, fine, pay him what he is making this year (and next) and make him an ambassador.

  8. Re: Schmaltz… kid has shown tons of growth in just one season… No doubt a great passer ( I said as much after watching him in Prospect camp- made sick passes thru guys feet – right on the tape… exactly like the one to Toews 2 games ago)… tons of upside!

    But- Fabbri- did score 15 points in 20 Playoff games last year… and youngest guy in Blues History to pot goal in game 7… and if Hawks Had him in lineup instead of Schmaltz in N. Dakota… guessing Hawks go pretty deep in Last year’s PO’s.

    WTS- Fabbri is hurt… and may never reach his full potential…
    Schmaltz- Is looking better/quicker/more confident each game!!!

    3-2-1

  9. Nothing against Fabbri – he’s a fine player, but it’s too early to each of their careers to make a fair assessment which player is “better”. And, the thing is it doesn’t matter as long as both players play well and contribute to their team. I’ll be happy if Schmaltz ends up with a nice top-6 career with the Hawks even if Fabbri is ultimately judged to be the better player.

  10. Wasn’t Fabbri a healthy scratch before he blew out his knee this year? He was also a -16.

    Schmaltz +9 and is better defensively. Even when he was getting his feet wet earlier in the year he was still good defensively.

  11. Tab, weren’t you saying Rozsival needs to play a certain number of games to be eligible to expose in the expansion draft? If that’s why they’re playing him right now I’m definitely fine with getting it out of the way now before the playoffs start.

  12. Gander – since you missed it, the Blackhawks played Rozsival last night because they had 6 available defensemen.

    Also, Rozsival has played in 2 games now since returning from injury. he’s the 8th defenseman on this team if everyone is healthy. he’s won 2 Cups here. not an awful insurance policy.

  13. Rundblad played ahead of Roszival in Game 7 last year if memory serves correct. That is proof in itself Roszival is better suited as the 10th D man, or ambassador, than as the 8th D-man.

    Let’s hope the Hawks don’t have to dig past 7 D-men during the Cup run.

  14. Roszival has already met the games played requirement to expose. It doesnt matter if he didnt anyway. Barring a trade, TVR meets that exposed D requirement. He can’t be protected. So Vegas would have 2 D to choose from the Hawks. You can protect a certain number of players. Some are exempt. Once you meet everyone else is fair game. The Hawks need to expose at least 1 D but no cap on players exposed.

    Roszival was in the lineup because Hjalmarsson is injured and Oduya wasn’t available. He’s the 8th D on the NHL roster. He has his limitations. His skates are cinder blocks. But he makes almost league minimum. He’s aware of his limitations. He’s calm and makes the pass out of the D zone. Can do worse than 8th D.

  15. I think we are starting to see why Schmaltz was the Hawks top rated prospect coming into the year. Passing has always been his biggest strength. The knock on him has always been consistency, much like Anisimov. His ceiling was always much higher than Motte and Hino. Hartman was also a question but IMO has already exceeded expectations this season. Tab, Thanks for the excellent write-up as always I wasn’t able to watch the game.

  16. I asked this question before but who is the next 2, or 3 d-man in our system-it has been weak for a few years?
    I like Forsling’s upside and Kempny will probably be a solid bottom 5/6. Is Pokka legit? (he seems stuck in minor pro)
    Anyone know more about the future of the NCAA guys? I think the last pick in the CHL was Travis Brown.

  17. Incorrect, Ernie.

    Thru Wednesday, Rozsival has played in 68 regular season games. Needs to play in 70. Which he will, with Hjalmarsson on IR + Oduya not playing until next week.

  18. The last time I heard Stan asked about our prospects on defense he referred to the Swedes which would include Dahlstrom and Forsling in Rockford, and Lucas Carlsson (2016 pick) who is still in Sweden. The Finn we drafted in 2015 (Joni Tuulola) might have some upside but overall it’s not a deep pool.

  19. I think Kempny can be a 3/4 once he gets more experience with the NHL game and rink size. He moves well enough and he has the size and strength to be a pretty good d-man. Plus he has a good shot.

    Forsling probably has the most upside but he’s still only 20 so how much time he needs is the question on him.

    Pokka doesn’t move well enough to be an NHL d-man. Probably the same can be said for Svedberg. Gustafsson showed some promise with the Hawks early last season then lost confidence and hasn’t been seen in Chicago since – so who knows what his situation is.

    The other Swedes playing in Rockford (Dahlstrom and Norell) – just plugging away in Rockford so who knows?

    A few NCAA d-men are showing some promise – Gilbert (19) at Notre Dame, Krys (18) at Boston U., and Snuggerud (20) at Nebraska-Omaha.

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