Stop me if you’ve heard this before, the Blackhawks came out flat to start a game and allowed a barrage of goals early in the first period.
That’s exactly what happened Saturday night, again.
The Blackhawks gave up three goals just 4:11 minutes into the first period in a 5-2 loss to the Predators at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.
Nashville’s Kevin Fiala scored 2:11 into the first period when he slid a rebound between Cam Ward’s legs and into the back of the net. Rookie Eeli Tolvanen scored his first NHL goal on a spinning backhand 81 seconds later after being left all alone. Not even a minute later, Ryan Johansen added a goal of his own.
It’s a feeling all too familiar for the Blackhawks, and one that needs fixing fast.
Duncan Keith and Alex DeBrincat gave the Blackhawks a spark, getting into a pair of fights after a questionable hit on the veteran defenseman by Miikka Salomaki. The ensuing scrum resulted in Keith accruing 27 penalty minutes, including a 10-minute game misconduct, and an ejection.
Brandon Saad scored a shorthanded goal after going to the net. Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne saved the original shot, but it popped up and deflected in to make it 3-1. Craig Smith made it a three-goal game again when he wristed shot in the final two minutes of Keith’s penalties.
The Blackhawks played much better in the second period. Artem Anisimov added a goal at 13:16 to bring the Blackhawks within two.
The score held until Austin Watson scored an empty-net goal late in the third.
Despite the early three-goal deficit, Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton left Cam Ward in the game. Ward stopped 25 shots in the loss.
The Blackhawks return home to face the Flames on Sunday in the second half of a back-to-back.
Need more efforts like the second period
While the Blackhawks continue to cause frustration with their first period performances, I can glean a bit of optimism from the second frame. The problem is, the Blackhawks seem to decide to start playing when they get down by a few goals instead of at the start of the game.
The Blackhawks noticeably outplayed Nashville in the second. Anisimov had his goal and if not for a few remarkable saves by Pekka Rinne, it might’ve been 4-3 before the end of the second. David Kampf had a great chance on a breakaway but couldn’t quite catch up to the puck. The defense played about as good as I’ve seen in recent memory in the second. That needs to be the standard of effort going forward.
The Blackhawks missed Henri Jokiharju
Even though they gave up just as many goals with him, once Jokiharju got re-acclimated, the defense started tightening up. The rookie is going to be an important defensive piece for the future of this franchise, so it’s important he gets as many games as possible now before the Blackhawks other lauded defensive prospects get here.
What is there to lose in bringing up Dylan Sikura?
It’s quite clear this offense can’t put up points on a consistent basis, so why not give new blood a try? Sikura has six goals and 15 points in 22 AHL games with the IceHogs. In five games last season, Sikura had three assists. Now that he has his feet wet at the professional level, why not give him a shot?