The Chicago Blackhawks didn’t want to head to Nashville down by two games to the Predators in this series, but that’s exactly what they’ll be doing by virtue of their 5-0 loss on Saturday night.
The loss puts the Blackhawks two defeats away from elimination, and puts them in a position that they’ve only been in three times under Joel Quennville: down 2-0 in a best-of-seven series.
So what went wrong for the Blackhawks? Was there anything positive that came out of Saturday’s loss? To answer those questions, here are our Three Thoughts from the game.
Lack of Urgency Killing the Blackhawks
It’s a meatball’s refrain, and one that gets parroted by every talking head on television: such-and-such team just wanted it more.
In the case of the Blackhawks, this statement rises above being a hackneyed cliché, and actually hits on a fundamental truth of the team in the first two games of this series: they have played with zero urgency, and as a result, they have been shutout in the first two games of a series for the first time in over 80 years.
By way of example, the play of Jonathan Toews provides a good snapshot of this. In the first period of the game, Toews was on the ice for one shot attempt. Not one shot on goal. One shot ATTEMPT. That is a comically low number for a guy who is centering the team’s top line, and even though the captain ended up with five shots on goal in the game, the reality is that his slow start helped put the Blackhawks behind the eight-ball.
The Blackhawks not only failed to play with any sense of urgency in the game, but they also played a careless, and at times, stupid game as well. Patrick Kane’s cross-checking penalty showed the fire that his game sorely lacked on Saturday night, but it showed a lack of self-control as well. Ryan Hartman’s late game penalty didn’t ultimately affect the outcome, but it was yet another example of the out-of-control style that he’s been playing with lately, and frankly he’s become more of a liability than an asset on the ice for the Blackhawks in the tail end of the season.
This team needs a massive attitude adjustment if they are going to get back into this series, and it all begins with playing like there’s actually something on the line, which they have not done at all in the first two games of the series.
Bad Defense Almost as Worrying as Lack of Offense
For as awful as the team’s offense has been in the first two games, the defense has made a slew of questionable plays as well.
After allowing Viktor Arvidsson’s first period tally on Thursday by drifting too far into the middle of the ice, Duncan Keith had a mostly positive evening on West Madison, but he was basically alone in that category.
Brian Campbell got badly outskated by Filip Forsberg in the third period of the game, and ultimately it was his lack of speed that cost him as Forsberg put a quality shot on Corey Crawford, generating a rebound that resulted in the Predators’ fourth goal.
On that same play, Trevor van Riemsdyk made an awful play as he couldn’t keep up with Ryan Johansen, who potted a tally that put the final nail in the coffin of the Blackhawks.
Then there was the absolutely atrocious play of Johnny Oduya. Carelessness when he had the puck was bad enough, but he compounded it by making several bad defensive mistakes. His defensive effort on Harry Zolnierczyk’s goal in the second period was absolutely laughable, as he got easily outworked by the forward on a rush up the ice.
His effort on Colton Sissons’ goal later in the period was even worse, as he flailed away helplessly on a rushing Craig Smith and then, after going behind the goal for completely inexplicable reasons, watched as Sissons pounced on the rebound and pounded it home.
No defenseman can say that they had a truly good game against the Predators, but in Oduya’s case, it was definitely one that he will want to forget.
The Few, The Good, and the Positive
There has been plenty of wailing and gnashing of teeth about Saturday’s game, and rightfully so, but there were a handful of solid performances worth noting.
Dennis Rasmussen and Vincent Hinostroza both made early impacts on the game with their speed and defense, and although neither player was making much of a prominent impact in the later stages of the contest, both guys acquitted themselves well in their first action of the postseason.
Brent Seabrook and Richard Panik added some much-needed physicality into the mix, with each player delivering five hits in the game.
Finally, there was Trevor van Riemsdyk, who continued to provide some offensive push with stretch passes and some quality possession time as he got pucks into the zone for the team to get things going.