Clear the crease!
All three of Nashville’s goals came from the same location. Parked right in front of the goaltender, unmoved, able to capitalize on any rebounds that came his way, Nick Bonino stood. He wasn’t the only one:
Robin Lehner shouldn’t have to worry about his rebounds. He should be able to trust his defensemen not to give up further chances that he’ll have to take care of. But Chicago allowed too many second and third chances to the Predators, forced into their own zone time and time again unable to clear the puck, and it led to a horrible game and a score that didn’t reflect how poorly the Blackhawks played.
Clear the crease, give Lehner better looks at incoming shots and keep the opposing player in front of you and Nashville isn’t able to get those chances Bonino tucked away.
Lehner for the Vezina Trophy?
So far this season, Lehner has 17.9 expected goals against. He’s allowed 14 goals. His 6.15 goals saved above average is fourth in the league behind Tuukka Rask, Marc-Andre Fleury and Pekka Rinne. It turns out Lehner wasn’t a product of the Islanders’ defense, nor was his Vezina-nominated season a fluke. Not when he’s doing so well behind the Blackhawks’ defense, a far cry from that on Long Island.
Lehner made 48 saves on 51 shots. This game could have been much worse for the Blackhawks. It should have been when you give up 42 scoring chances and 16 high-danger scoring chances, according to Natural Stat Trick. They allowed five power plays to the Predators with one of the bottom five penalty kills in the league coming into the game. They killed all five, and Lehner was a huge reason why.
More games like the one against the Predators and Lehner will continue to find his way up Vezina lists from national writers. He has some of the best stats in the league, and to see him doing it behind a poor defense is on a whole other level.
Blackhawks need more takeaways.
Chicago had just three takeaways across all strengths. They gave the puck up six times. When the Blackhawks are at their best, their forcing turnovers and getting the puck back quickly and transitioning into the offensive zone.
Here’s how many takeaways Chicago has grabbed in three wins:
15 vs. Kings
10 vs. Oilers
9 vs. Blue Jackets
The Blackhawks who force others into mistakes and capitalize, who, like Alex Nylander against the Flyers in the season opener, grab the puck in the neutral zone after a bad pass by the opposing team and turn it into a chance — that’s the team they need to strive to be, and who they are when winning.
Three takeaways is not good enough, nor is it an isolated incident — against the Hurricanes, the Blackhawks racked up just four takeaways.