The Blackhawks spent their offseason making changes to be better prepared to handle teams like the Predators. It worked enough Saturday to earn a 2-1 overtime win thanks to Brandon Saad’s clutch game-winner in extra time.
There’s no way to get around the fact that the Hawks got outplayed badly for most of the game, however. It was a familiar sight for anyone who watched the Predators’ first-round sweep in the 2017 postseason, even though the personnel on both sides has changed a bit from six months ago.
Nashville dominated at 5-on-5 with a 29-18 advantage in shots on goal, and finished at 38-35 overall. If it weren’t for Corey Crawford playing out of his mind with 37 saves on 38 shots, this game could’ve gotten out of hand early on.
But the Blackhawks started building momentum during the third period after sputtering for 40-plus minutes, then broke through with less than six minutes left in regulation with a backhanded goal from Patrick Sharp. John Hayden, usually on the fourth line, made a great pass to set up the play, which shows what he can do when his linemates aren’t Tommy Wingels and Lance Bouma.
Then in 3-on-3 overtime, the two sides went back-and-forth before Patrick Kane hit a gliding Saad in front of the net for a deflection goal. It was a beautiful bit of hockey, which felt appropriate given how ugly the Hawks played for large chunks of the game. Saad had just come over the boards for a gassed Jonathan Toews, and promptly strode into the prime scoring area to capitalize on a perfect pass from Kane.
Kane with a tremendous feed to Saad. #Blackhawks win in OT. pic.twitter.com/RbYfLOzQ2z— Cristiano Simonetta (@CMS_74_) October 15, 2017
The Hawks showed Saturday that they’re still not quite ready to go toe-to-toe with fast teams like the Predators for 60 minutes, but their resiliency was encouraging. Get Nick Schmaltz back in there soon and we’ll really get to see what this team is made of.
CHI GOALS: Sharp (2), Saad (6)
NSH GOALS: Forsberg (5)
Tanner Kero cannot cut it as a scorer
Kero has his fans around Chicago, and you can see why given he can make some pretty nice plays. However, at the end of the day, we’re talking about a guy with seven goals in 69 career NHL games. He’s just not very good at finishing scoring chances, and with a 45 percent 5-on-5 Corsi this season, he’s not doing much to create them, either.
That was readily apparent Saturday as Kero failed to take advantage of some good chances in the Predators. On one play in the second period, he fumbled a perfect pass from Patrick Kane in the slot that should’ve been at least forced Pekka Rinne to make a save. Kero on the fourth line is at least tolerable, but the Hawks suffer when he’s higher up in the lineup.
What was the point of benching Connor Murphy?
The Predators are an extremely fast, physical team, so it’s fair to wonder why the Blackhawks benched Murphy, a big, mobile defenseman, for this game. If anything, it seems like he was acquired from Arizona specifically to make Chicago’s defense more capable of handling speedy opponents like Nashville.
Murphy hasn’t been great with the Blackhawks so far, and this is the second time that he’s been a healthy scratch already. Part of that is the emergence of Jan Rutta, but Joel Quenneville has now repeatedly benched Murphy in order to get Cody Franson, a much slower skater, into the lineup.
There are legitimate arguments to be made in a Murphy vs. Franson debate, but this seems like the kind of matchup Murphy was brought in to handle. This will be a situation to watch closely over the next few weeks given how we’ve seen other players get buried when they get on Quenneville’s wrong side. Murphy hasn’t earned that fate yet, but we’ve seen this story play out before.
Corey Crawford is off to another amazing start
We’re fans of Crawford around these parts. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves as one of the NHL’s better goalies, but he might if he keeps playing like this for 60-plus starts this season.
Crawford improved his save percentage to .960 with 37 saves on 38 shot attempts against Nashville. Three of the seven goals he’s given up this season came on opposing power plays. At even strength, he’s saved 137 of 141 shot attempts for an .971 save percentage. Only Sergei Bobrovsky has been significantly better among starting goalies this month.
- Brandon Saad (CHI) — 1 goal, 5 SOG
- Corey Crawford (CHI) — 37 saves on 38 shots
- Filip Forsberg (NSH) — 1 goal, 3 SOG