The Chicago Blackhawks could use a playoff goal, let alone a win, after getting beat up in a 5-0 loss to the Nashville Predators on Saturday night. The Hawks now trail 2-0 in the seven-game series after getting blanked in Game 2 at the United Center, which means they’ve gone six straight periods without scoring.
Ryan Ellis, Harry Zolnierczyk, Colton Sissons, Ryan Johansen, and Kevin Fiala potted goals for the Predators as they extended their series lead. Pekka Rinne also stayed hot with 30 saves on 30 shots for his second straight blank slate. Suddenly, Nashville has a huge advantage in a series it was widely expected to lose.
There are lot of culprits in the 2-0 hole. Ryan Hartman and Nick Schmaltz have struggled in their playoff debuts. Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin, and Jonathan Toews haven’t gotten going at all. Johnny Oduya’s declining speed has been exposed repeatedly, and the Duncan Keith pairing is losing the possession battle to the Predators’ first line. Corey Crawford hasn’t been good enough to make up for those problems.
The Blackhawks will need to win at least two games in Nashville in order to get out of this series alive after blowing their home ice advantage. They’re far from done, but the Predators have staked their claim over this series so far.
Here’s how it happened:
Surely the Blackhawks would come out with some extra pep in their step in such an important game, right? That’s roughly what happened for the first couple minutes, but the Predators quickly swung the pendulum back in their direction with a similar style to Game 1.
Eventually, Ellis got a juicy shooting opportunity from the point, and while Richard Panik made a sliding block on the initial shot, the puck bounced right back to Ellis. The defenseman rifled it back toward the net and slipped it through a screen from Viktor Arvidsson to beat Corey Crawford.
The Predators held a 23-14 advantage in shot attempts and a 12-7 advantage in shots on goal after 20 minutes. They outshot the Hawks, 8-1, with Jonathan Toews on the ice, which is not exactly the result you want from your No. 1 center.
The intermission didn’t solve the Blackhawks’ sloppiness. Harry Zolnierczyk caught the defense sleeping on a sloppy line change and got a breakaway, which ended with him sniping the puck off the post and in. Johnny Oduya was scrambling behind him to try to prevent a shot, but his backchecking stick didn’t arrive in time.
Roughly 10 minutes later, Sissons scored to give the Predators a 3-0 lead late in period. This was the one that turned Blackhawks Twitter upside down as the reality started setting in that there probably wouldn’t be a comeback. Was overcoming a three-goal deficit impossible? No, but it wasn’t going to happen the way they were playing.
If you insist upon hearing about it, well, the Blackhawks didn’t score. They got some good chances, but Rinne continued his red hot play to deliver a second straight road shutout. There was also lots of line juggling as the Hawks sought to find a top six that could actually score. Instead, Johansen and Fiala added to the blowout.
SCH’s 3 Stars of the Game
1) Pekka Rinne, Predators (30 saves on 30 shots, 1 assist)
2) Ryan Johansen, Predators (1 goal, 2 assists)
3) Harry Zolnierczyk, Predators (1 goal)
A 2-0 series lead is far from a death sentence for a team like the Blackhawks, but the pressure is starting to mount. The team will need to win four of the next five games with three of those in Nashville, and it didn’t exactly offer much confidence with its performance Saturday. There’s no reason to be worried because they’re down two games. There’s reason to be worried because they looked so bad while digging that hole.