Who knew the nightlife in Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg has grown so intense that it could put a bunch of grown men on their ass for two straight days. A night after the Hawks iced 10 forwards and were continuously bailed out by Corey Crawford, they tried playing with 12 forwards this time. This time Scott Darling was in net and he wasn’t in the mood to comply.
This game was so important that the USA Today didn’t even bother to send a photographer so that’s why we’re sans picture today. Things just aren’t the same, I know. Sadly, this does prove the old saying “If a USA Today photographer wasn’t there to document it, did it really happen?” to be false. It did happen.
You’ve waited long enough, let’s get to it.
–On the Panthers first goal, the broadcast booth was falling all over themselves much like Erik Gustafsson did to try and pin the blame on his slip up allowing the far side lane to open for Reilly Smith. Buuuuuut if we’re in the trust tree, Brent Seabrook also committed to closing down Jussi Jokinen more than he needed to.
It wasn’t exactly the Red Sea that had parted. Despite his slip, Gustafsson was still in decent enough position to be able to defend Jokinen. Meanwhile, it was Seabrook making that one crossover to the middle instead of shifting his direction towards Jokinen that opened up the lane for Reilly Smith. That’s how quickly it can change in the NHL, folks.
Alas, this is all a long winded way of saying LOCAL GUY Scott Darling still shouldn’t have let the shot in. Even with all the things that happened prior – Gustafsson slipping, Seabrook over committing to the middle – Smith was still at a terrible angle where a NHL goalie cannot allow a shot to beat him.
This was going to be a theme for the night.
–The Panthers third goal was perhaps even worse as the Hawks defended the play properly and were playing to get out of the period down two goals. Instead, Darling let it squeak past him and that was effectively that.
Just to be sure, though, Darling let an Ekblad warm up shot beat him clean from 45 feet out three minutes into the second.
You could argue that Quenneville could’ve pulled Darling here. But at that point, it’s like a starting pitcher that doesn’t have it and the bullpen is taxed. Darling would have to just wear it. The only way he was coming out of the game was if Darling was “Patrick Roy in his last game for the Canadiens” bad. And he wasn’t. So there’s that. Yay!
–That being said, the LOCAL GUY will definitely be on watch down the stretch here. The Hawks will not want to overburden Corey Crawford over the last few months as they begin their mid-season malaise before gearing up for the playoffs. In 9 games this year, Darling has a .898 save percentage on the road. It’s certainly not a huge sample size but it is one from which we can draw that he has been suboptimal on the road.
As the Hawks would likely prefer Crawford doesn’t start upwards of 60+ games, you can reasonably expect they’d like to squeeze at least 15 more starts out of their backup goalie this year so this will be a storyline worth paying attention in the second half.
–Finnish Baby Jesus is ok after Erik Gudbrandson railroaded him and so am I. If anything happened to him, then this game would have been worth cursing to the gods. Otherwise, treat it like the midseason snooze fest that it was. The Hawks don’t even remember this game anymore and neither should you.
–When the game was still of interest, Jiri Sekac made a few plays that stood out and could stand to be a decent factor on the 4th line with the ability to play top 6 in a pinch. Just get him a new number.
–St. Louis on Sunday where I will be playing the role of Slaky to zero acclaim. See you then.