The tragedy of a weeknight loss is that I can't actually drink myself to a stupor following tonight's game. There will be recaps and there will be recaps, but I don't really feel like recounting all 4 Nashville goals, and I'm pretty sure none of you feel like reading about them either, so let's move on, shall we?
Here's What You Should Know:
- The Predators played their game tonight, and then some. Not a lot of the trap, but they backchecked aggressively and that smothered the Hawks' puck possession game, almost putting it out entirely. Hawks couldn't get anything going long enough in the Preds' zone, and when they did, either the shooting lanes were clogged or Rinne had an answer.
- The Predators have also seemed to key in on Patrick Kane. He only had 1 shot on goal in tonight's game and the Preds seemed to collapse on him whenever he entered the zone. He'll need support to generate chances there.
- The power play converted on 1 chance tonight, but didn't look all that impressive in the next chances.
- The penalty kill, however, continues to be solid. In fact, I'd estimate (roughly) that 70% of the Hawks' dominant play tonight came off of shorthanded opportunities. I can't figure out why.
- Quite honestly, I don't know what I would have done, but I can't think of very many good things to say about Quenneville's line-juggling in the third period. Watching a grainy feed has its disadvantages, and one of them is that I couldn't tell who was out for certain periods of time--I could almost swear, however, that towards the end of the 3rd Byfuglien was thrown back out as a forward. Um, what? Kopecky also started skating with Sharp and Hossa, and Versteeg was thrown in with Toews and Kane. They got a couple of chances going, but mostly one-and-dones. Nothing too substantive to warrant a second look.
So About those Keys to the Game...
- Score Two Early. Tie It Up and then Fall Back By Three. If there's any team that knows how to play with a lead, it's Nashville. They didn't play as conservatively with the lead as I expected they would, either, and Erat had that penalty shot that converted into goal #4 as well.
- Shoot Low and Crash the Net. One and Done. Rinse. Repeat. Let Rinne Stand on His Head. Still not enough net presence for my liking, and too many missed chances as well. It'll take a quality player to beat Rinne flat-out, so those breakaway opportunities and odd-man rushes, which the Hawks had quite a few of, won't be very easy to get past him. Unfortunately.
- Simplify and Stay Safe. Well, We Never Got a Lead, so This Point is Kind of Moot. But the Hawks failed to do the little things, the simple things--they didn't win board battles, they couldn't get the puck out of their zone, and it just felt like they forgot the basics. They were at times careless with the puck and slow to react when the Predators pounced on those mistakes. This loss is still, at heart, a case of being outworked, not outskilled. The Blackhawks can't make any excuses--they need to show up and play, because that's the only way they can win any more games.