The Blackhawks and Predators entered Saturday night’s game at the United Center with only four points separating them in the standings as the race for the playoffs continues. However, it was only the Predators that seemed to realize this fact as they dictated play for a majority of the game, and the Blackhawks lost 3-1.
Before the game got started, the excitement was palpable in the Blackhawks fandom as Kirby Dach made an early return to the lineup. He’s been very missed.
The excitement didn’t last long, though, as the Predators were rewarded early when Ryan Johansen gave the Predators the lead just over five minutes into the first period. Viktor Arvidsson backhanded a pass from below the goalline to Johansen who was alone in the slot and scored.
NHL Video Highlight - Ryan Johansen scores against the Chicago Blackhawks to make it 1-0. pic.twitter.com/tjvb5H1x3n— Chicago Blackhawks Game Bot (@BHawksGameBot) March 28, 2021
The Blackhawks weren’t without looks, there just weren’t very many considering how few shots they had. One of their best chances of the period was a Mattias Janmark shot that pinged off the post.
And the other was Dach slicing through the Predators defenders like they were butter. Ooh, baby, this was beautiful.
After 20 minutes, the Blackhawks trailed the Predators 15-6 in shots, 8-2 in high danger chances, and 1-0 in goals, while failing to score on two power plays despite the Predators having the worst penalty kill in the league. It was an ugly period and the Blackhawks were lucky to not be down by more.
The Predators continued to outplay the Blackhawks to start the second period, and Kevin Lankinen had several key saves early to keep the game close.
Unfortunately, even Lankinen ’s heroics couldn’t delay the inevitable. The Predators scored to make it 2-0 after a turnover from David Kampf, who inexplicably tried to send the puck directly up the middle when there were only Predators around, and Luke Kunin deflected it enough to set up Rocco Grimaldi for an easy wrister from the slot.
NHL Video Highlight - Rocco Grimaldi scores against the Chicago Blackhawks to make it 2-0. pic.twitter.com/niXd7mNNYz— Chicago Blackhawks Game Bot (@BHawksGameBot) March 28, 2021
The Blackhawks had some push-back as the period progressed, resulting in a Pius Suter goal that cut the Predators lead in half with 2:27 left in the frame. Juuse Saros gave up a juicy rebound after a Patrick Kane shot, and Suter was there to clean up.
At least the Blackhawks weren’t shutout.
But the Blackhawks didn’t waste any time falling behind by two goals again as the Predators scored 51 seconds into the third period after another bad turnover. Calvin de Haan decided, for unknown reasons, to pass directly into traffic right in front of the net. Kunin intercepted it and then passed to Mikael Granlund for a tap-in goal.
NHL Video Highlight - Mikael Granlund scores against the Chicago Blackhawks to make it 3-1. pic.twitter.com/yLjqM6Y9Fo— Chicago Blackhawks Game Bot (@BHawksGameBot) March 28, 2021
The Blackhawks finally decided to show-up with about 10 minutes left in the game, outshooting the Predators 13-4. It wouldn’t be enough to overcome the stinkage of the first 50 minutes, though, and the Blackhawks fall to the Predators 3-1.
- Even though both teams are battling for the final playoff spot in the division, only one team really showed up. The Predators have been playing better but they’re also not a possession powerhouse. Yet it didn’t feel like the Blackhawks were ever really in the game for a majority of it.
- JC loaded up the top lines late in the third period and the Blackhawks looked dangerous then, but it shouldn’t take such extreme measures for the team to get going. Thanks to this late push, the shot metrics and scoring chances evened out for the game, but playing extremely well for 10 minutes just makes it sadder they were so disjointed for the first 50.
- The Blackhawks also made several ill-advised passes that led to either high-danger chances or goals against. The Kampf and de Haan passes were the most egregious but there was a serious lack of on-ice awareness when it came to passing this game.
- There weren’t a lot of penalties this game, but the Blackhawks not being able to score on either of the two opportunities they were given seemed like a bad omen considering how awful the Predators’ penalty kill is this season.
- The game wasn’t without bright spots, including the return of Kirby Dach to the Blackhawks lineup, and he looked pretty amazing considering it’s been months since he’s seen any game action. He finished the game with 19:58 ice-time, a solid four shot attempts of which half were high-danger chances, and the third best individual expected goals on the team (0.33).
- Pius Suter had another excellent game, which is nice to see considering he disappeared for a couple of weeks in early March. Not only did he have the Blackhawks lone goal, the center had the highest individual expected goals (1.06) of either team thanks to his five high-danger scoring chances.
- Brandon Hagel continued to impress as well, leading the team with seven shot attempts. He was one of the only players good in-transition, and the Hawks had a 55.96 percent share of expected goals at 5-on-5 when he was on the ice.
- Despite allowing three goals, Lankinen was more than solid in net and the only reason the Blackhawks weren’t down as much in the first two periods. He saw over 30 shots again, which is the 20th time that’s happened in his 24 games. Lankinen seems to be rebounding nicely since his slide during the Southern Road Trip of Gloom™.
- Ultimately, the downside is the Blackhawks were fairly manhandled by a mediocre team for a lot of the game, but showed they can push back at the end and at least the kids are still performing well. If the Blackhawks can play more like they did in the final 10 minutes, they can hopefully pull off a much-needed win Sunday night.
- Luke Kunin (NSH) — 2 assists
- Juuse Saros (NSH) — 29 saves on 30 shots
- Kevin Lankinen (CHI) — 31 saves on 34 shots
The Blackhawks faced the Predators again Saturday night at the United Center for a 7 p.m. start.