Hawks-Flyers, Game 1: Take your shot now

177642.jpg

Hawks-Flyers, Game 1: Take your shot now

Friday, May 28, 2010
11:21 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO This is it, Cinderella Philadelphians. Take your best shot and steal a win Saturday or face a painful and inevitable snatching of the Stanley Cup from your bruised and calloused hands.

(Full disclosure: Ive picked the Blackhawks in fiveand if Im wrong, Id say the series will tip closer to a four-gamer than six.)

Winning Game 1 is certainly the best, and nearly only, option for the Philadelphia Flyers if they want to upset the Chicago Blackhawks to win the 2010 Stanley Cup. While Philadelphia may indeed be a team of destiny, its a lot more likely its destiny will be as the fourth team in major sports history and third NHL team to come back from a 3-0 deficit to advance in a series, period, (premature) end of story. And while the destiny stuff is stirring, really, cmon, the Flyers romped over the No. 2-seeded New Jersey Devils and pretty well dismantled the hottest goalie in hockey, Jaro Halak, in dismissing the Montreal Canadiens. Both of those series were sleepwalkswhere does all the drama and destiny kick in?

Besides, until Philly went ham on the Boston Bruins and made them an unenviable footnote to history as victims of a double 3-0 rally, if there was a team of destiny, it was the Hawks. Just 14 seconds from a do-or-die game in Nashville down 3-2 to the Predators in the quarters, Chicago tied Game 5 with on a shortie by Patrick Kane and won it a few minutes into overtime on a Marian Hossa tally.

But enough of the battle over who gets to roll Bittersweet Symphony behind their team highlights this season. The crux of the biscuit: How can Philadelphia win Game 1? Its easy, but it requires swallowing some pride and slowing the game down. All indications are that Philly wants to fly high and get into a sprinting match with Chicago, and it doesnt matter how many Rocky montages they watch in the Flyers pregame dressing room with Chicagos few-hit-wonders Survivor supplying the soundtrack, that strategy aint gonna fly now. The one openingand its barn-door wide, actuallyis for Philly to opt for heavy sandpaper grit mode, slow the game down and demoralize a still relatively young, somewhat impressionable Blackhawks team.

Redshirts fans will scoff: No manner of sloggy or slushy play will deter my Blackhawks from the Cup. While that is a romantic notion, and Im a romantic fella, verdict: hogwash. The Preds, who had no business forcing Chicago into a panic, did so time and time again (Games 1, 3, 5). The Blackhawks came within 14 seconds of having their Stanley Cup dream deferredby Nashville. A team that wasnt too proud to slush it up.

Barring a slowdown game, the Flyers have little hope short of Jabberwocky stuff: Transformers exploding and shortening Game 1; a train derailing to delay Game 3; human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria scarring Game 5, ad infinitum.

This is the series you wanted, Philadelphia. Now go out there and act like you want to win it. Otherwise, by Game 4, women and children will have to turn away from the sights that will be seen.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Blackhawks trade Scott Darling to Hurricanes for draft pick

Blackhawks trade Scott Darling to Hurricanes for draft pick

The Blackhawks have traded goaltender Scott Darling to the Carolina Hurricanes for a third-round draft pick in 2017, the team announced Friday. The third-rounder was previously acquired from the Ottawa Senators.

"We could count on Scott in any situation as he was always reliable," Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said in a statement. "We appreciate his contributions to the Blackhawks organization — including a Stanley Cup Championship team — and we wish him well as he continues his career in Carolina."

In three seasons with Chicago, the 28-year-old Lemont native had a 39-17-9 record with a 2.37 goals against average, .923 save percentage and four shutouts. He was also a key member of the 2015 Stanley Cup-winning team, helping the Blackhawks get out of the first round against the Nashville Predators.

His best year came during the 2016-17 campaign when he set a career high with 18 wins and ranked tied for fifth in the league with a .924 save percentage. He's earned the opportunity to become a full-time starter. It was always unlikely that it would be in his hometown with Corey Crawford under contract through 2019-20, but Friday confirmed that.

"I feel like I've paid my dues as a backup," Darling said at the end of the season. "And when I've had a chance to play in consecutive games I feel like I've shown that I can do it."

He also reflected on his last three years with the Blackhawks "just in case," and had nothing but great things to say about his tenure in Chicago.

"If that does happen, I wouldn't change a second of my time in Chicago," Darling said at the time. "It's been bar-none the best three years of my life. Loved every second. They've been so great to me, my teammates, coaching staff, front office, everybody's been amazing. I wouldn't change a minute."

The Blackhawks will likely look externally for a backup option next season with minor-leaguers Mac Carruth and Lars Johansson due new contracts, and 31-year-old Jeff Glass, who was the No. 3 netminder in the playoffs, having no NHL experience.

The Hurricanes currently own Darling's negotiating rights, and have until July 1 to sign him to an extension when he could hit the market as an unrestricted free agent. Contract talks have not yet started, according to TSN's Pierre LeBrun.

They have two goaltenders (Eddie Lack and Cam Ward) under contract for one more year, meaning a corresponding move could be coming before the expansion draft. One (or both) of them would have to be exposed, assuming Darling signs before then and is protected.

The Blackhawks, who host the NHL Draft from June 23-24, now have 10 draft picks this year: a first, second, fourth, three fifth's, two sixth's and two seventh's.

Blackhawks agree to terms with Nathan Noel on entry-level contract

Blackhawks agree to terms with Nathan Noel on entry-level contract

The Blackhawks strengthened their organizational depth Thursday, announcing the signing of forward Nathan Noel to a three-year entry-level contract that kicks in next season and runs through the 2019-20 campaign. 

Noel, a fourth-round draft pick (No. 113 overall) in 2016, tied a career high with 24 goals — including six game winners — and added 26 assists for 50 points in 52 games during his fourth regular season with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He was sidelined for a little more than a month in December and January due to an upper-body injury.

The 19-year-old center has raised his game in the postseason, racking up eight goals and 18 assists in 33 games from 2015-17, including six assists in 12 contests so far during the 2017 QMJHL playoffs. Across four years at Saint John, he amassed 208 points (85 goals, 123 assists) in 242 career regular-season games.

Noel is teammates with forward Matthew Highmore, who leads the Sea Dogs in scoring and was signed by the Blackhawks in March to a three-year deal as an undrafted free agent.

Noel is an undersized forward at 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, but he's a fast skater with offensive upside. He'll likely start the 2017-18 season in the American Hockey League with the Rockford IceHogs, who desperately needed scoring last year.