The Blackhawks and Predators are back at it again on Sunday night at the United Center following Nashville’s 3-1 win over Chicago on Saturday night.
The only good news for the Blackhawks from that Saturday game was the return of Kirby Dach, who played his first hockey game in three months and looked every bit the part of a former No. 3 overall pick.
His return couldn’t save the Hawks from a dreadful performance in the first 40 minutes, though, as Nashville owned a 43-26 advantage in 5-on-5 shot attempts, 28-14 advantage in 5-on-5 scoring chances and 27-14 advantage in 5-on-5 shots on goal during the first two periods. A brutal Chicago giveaway gave Nashville a 3-1 lead early in the third and the Predators kept the Blackhawks from coming any closer on the scoreboard.
With the win, Nashville pulled within two points of Chicago in the Central Division standings at 35 points and another regulation win would see Nashville level Chicago at 37 for the fourth and final playoff spot in the division. Dallas and Columbus remain in striking distance, which means that this game — and several others upcoming in April — have massive implications in the playoff chase.
And that’s been a problem for the Hawks under coach Jeremy Colliton:
Of note here: During Colliton's tenure here, the Blackhawks have come up short in just about every one of these regular season games with heightened importance. Tonight would be a helluva night to buck that trend. https://t.co/ad8oB63x4j— Second City Hockey (@2ndCityHockey) March 28, 2021
This goes back to Colliton’s first season, when Chicago had a weekend home-and-home against the Avalanche in late March with both teams chasing a wild card berth. Chicago lost the first game 4-2 and then needed overtime to beat Colorado in the second, giving the Avs three crucial points in the standings. They ended up in the final wild card spot while the Blackhawks season ended after 82 games.
Yes, this team is in a different place now and there are plenty of reasons to have optimism for the future. But it was also disheartening to see one of the Blackhawks recent motifs emerge in 2021: an inability to rise to the occasion during a crucial regular season game. A good way to alleviate those concerns would be a sound thumping of the Predators on Sunday night.
Colliton was mum on any lineup changes when addressing the media this morning and any other adjustments will likely be minimal save for each teams probably rotating goalies, which would mean Pekka Rinne starts for Nashville and Malcolm Subban moves between the pipes for the Blackhawks.
Two points would go a long way towards restoring faith after Saturday’s dismal display. And Nashville ain’t exactly Tampa, either.
Let’s go Hawks!
Blackhawks — Statistic — Predators
46.54% (28th) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 51.98% (8th)
45.46% (29th) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 51.26 (13th)
2.86 (16th) — Goals per game — 2.46 (27th)
3.11 (22nd) — Goals against per game — 3.00 (20th)
46.3% (27th) — Faceoffs — 51.0% (13th)
27.8% (2nd) — Power play — 20.4% (t-16th)
73.6% (27th) — Penalty kill — 72.4% (29th)
Projected lineups (subject to change)
DeBrincat — Suter — Kane
Kubalik — Kampf — Hagel
Janmark — Dach — Strome
Carpenter— Soderberg — Kurashev
Keith — Beaudin
Zadorov — Murphy
de Haan — Boqvist
Tolvanen — Johansen — Arvidsson
Jarnrok — Granlund — Kunin
Cousins — Haula — Grimaldi
Trenin — Sissons — Olivier
Josi — Fabbro
Ekholm — Carrier
Harpur — Davies
How to watch
When: 7 p.m. CT
Where: United Center
TV: NBC Sports Chicago
Live stream: NBC Sports app, NHL.TV