Indiscipline to Blame for Blackhawks’ Blowout Loss to Predators

Several huge defensive mistakes kill Chicago in divisional game

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 There’s an old saying that goes “success has a thousand fathers, but failure is an orphan.” In the case of the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night, there may not be any single player who was most responsible for the team’s 7-2 drubbing at the hands of the Nashville Predators, but there were more than a few who should be subjected to paternity tests.

Duncan Keith started off the festivities by misplaying a 3-on-2 rush by the Predators in the first period. On the play, Keith should have stayed on his feet and steered the shot from Craig Smith wide of the net, but instead he dove and not only gave Smith a lane to shoot in, but also shielded the puck from Nikolai Khabibulin’s vision. The puck ended up bouncing off the Hawks’ goaltender’s glove, and Matt Cullen pounced on the puck in the crease to give Nashville a 1-0 lead.

Later in that period, Brandon Pirri had his scornful moment of the evening, committing a high-sticking penalty and killing a Hawks’ power play that could have potentially gotten them back into the game.

Early in the second period, it was Patrick Sharp’s turn at the trough of indiscipline. He dished out a great hit on Patric Hornqvist behind the Hawks’ net, and proceeded to skate behind the net with the puck. Instead of trying to push it up ice though, he blindly passed it back behind him, and Hornqvist picked off the pass and nearly scored on a wraparound attempt.

As the Hawks were just about ready to kill off a Kris Versteeg penalty in the second period, Brandon Bollig decided he wanted to join his new teammate in the box, firing the puck all the way down the ice and over the glass to commit a delay of game penalty. Hornqvist ended up scoring a power play goal on the ensuing man-advantage for Nashville, putting the Hawks down 3-0.

The Hawks fell into a 4-0 hole later in that same second period, as Marcus Kruger blindly passed the puck along the defensive blue line, and it was picked off by Cullen, who fired a perfect pass to a wide open Smith in front of the net, and there was nothing Corey Crawford could do as Smith was able to execute a beautiful deke with no pressure from a Hawks’ defense that was already nearly out of the zone when the play turned the other way.

The third period didn’t start much better for the Hawks, as Niklas Hjalmarsson tried to cut to the middle of the ice on a developing Nashville rush, and Gabriel Bourque skated right past him. Johnny Oduya complicated matters by diving towards the middle of the ice instead of cutting off the passing lane to Viktor Stalberg, who roofed a shot over Crawford and gave Nashville back a three goal lead just 15 seconds after Pirri had cut the deficit to 4-2.

Finally, Michal Rozsival joined the party, carelessly carrying the puck along the boards in the defensive zone and allowing Hornqvist to steal it and fire an excellent pass to Mike Fisher, who scored to give the Predators a commanding 6-2 lead.

Amid this flurry of failure, there is a silver lining to the black cloud from this game. The Hawks rarely have multiple undisciplined moments in a game, and often times when they have a game like this, they are able to snap out of their funk pretty quickly. Nothing motivates this particular group like a heaping helping of failure, and they definitely ate their fill of the dish on Saturday night.

For now, they’ll have to prepare for a tough Sunday night matchup with the San Jose Sharks, a team loaded with speedsters and goal scoring talent. It will be an opportunity for Chicago to have a statement game before they embark on their seven game circus trip on Tuesday, and will give them a good chance to wash the taste of Saturday’s defeat out of their mouths.

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