The Chicago Blackhawks started the 2017 Stanley Cup playoff run in disheartening fashion and that might be an understatement.
The Hawks came out flat and went down early in the first period after thinking it was a good idea for three players to converge on the puck carrier. Duncan Keith also didn’t look behind him and before we knew it Viktor Arvidsson’s tip-in snuck past Corey Crawford and the Hawks were in a 1-0 hole they couldn’t climb out of.
Arvidsson’s hand-eye coordination on the play can’t be diminished, but this was a lousy goal to give up.
— Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) April 14, 2017
The Blackhawks eventually woke up and played well enough to out-shoot Nashville 29-20. However, quality chances were few and far between and Chicago’s rust showed whenever they got in close.
However, Thursday night’s sluggish outing probably should’ve been expected. The Chicago Tribune’s Christopher Hine pointed out during the game that the Blackhawks simply don’t play well after at least three days of rest. Chicago is 1-5 this season in games played after they’ve had at least three days off beforehand.
The Blackhawks statistically aren’t great in Game 1s, either. They’re 12-10 in every Game 1 of a playoff series under Joel Quenneville, and that includes going 4-0 in every Game 1 of the 2013 Stanley Cup run.
So we already know the Hawks kind of stink in the opening game of a series. Factor in the several days off leading up to Thursday night and the setback makes more sense.
Plus, the last thing the Hawks could’ve done was get behind early. That allowed Nashville coach Peter Laviolette to pack it in on the team’s blue line and prevent the Hawks from cleanly skating the puck into the offensive zone, which is something they excel at. The Predators essentially lined four players up at the blue line after that goal and forced the Hawks to dump and chase the puck into the zone.
We all know Chicago plays their best when the series is on the line in Games 5-7. But there’s also an encouraging trend that should have fans optimistic for Game 2. The Blackhawks are 6-3 in Game 2 after losing Game 1 under Quenneville. However, all but two of those games were played away from home. The good news is the Hawks won both games that were played at the United Center to even the series.
The trends prove Chicago was bound to have a slow start to the series. Nashville did a good job of limiting outstanding chances, but they should feel fortunate to have gotten out with a victory considering they put only nine shots on Corey Crawford in the final two stanzas.
The Hawks deserve the benefit of the doubt even though their 2017 playoff opener was lackluster to say the least. We’ll see if the trends hold up Saturday night.