The Blackhawks were on their heels for sixty minutes as they couldn’t keep up with a superior Predators squad.
After a subpar 3-5-2 start to the regular season, the Chicago Blackhawks traveled to Nashville for the first game of a tough four-game road trip. The ‘Hawks were hoping to carry some momentum over from Sunday’s dominant 5-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings, but the Predators had other plans. Nashville controlled the tempo of the game all night long, as the Blackhawks had no answer for their high-powered offense.
The final score doesn’t tell the full story, as this game easily could have been 9-0 had it not been for Robin Lehner. The Blackhawks netminder saw 51 shots on Tuesday night, saving 48 of them to keep the game manageable. In reality, it was another dreadful performance from a Blackhawks team that has now been shutout twice in their last three games. They’ve scored one goal or fewer in four of their last five.
The majority of the first period was spent in the Blackhawks end, with the Predators applying pressure right from puck drop. Robin Lehner was tested early and often, as Nashville put 18 shots on goal in the opening frame. The Blackhawks weathered the storm for as long as they could, but it seemed like only a matter of time until the Predators struck.
Nick Bonino finally found the back of the net with just over two minutes remaining in the period. The Predators’ third line of Grimaldi-Bonino-Smith put together a dominant shift, and the puck found an open Bonino in front of the net for his fourth goal of the season. Erik Gustafsson didn’t do much of anything on the play to help out his goaltender.
The Blackhawks were lucky to come out of the first period down just 1-0. They were outshot by the Predators 19-6 and did not look ready to play a complete hockey team.
Things wouldn’t get much better for the Blackhawks in the second, as they struggled to maintain possession once again. The powerplay got a chance early on in the period, but to no surprise, the Blackhawks couldn’t get anything going.
Just a few minutes after killing off a Duncan Keith penalty, the Blackhawks surrendered a second goal to Nick Bonino. The goal was similar to Bonino’s first of the game, as the veteran center was left alone in front of Lehner to stuff home a rebound.
This time, Duncan Keith was caught being a bystander in front of his net. To be fair though, both Dylan Strome and Andrew Shaw were in the area and provided little support for their defense.
Once again, the Blackhawks were lucky to allow just one goal in the period. Robin Lehner continued to stand on his head despite the lackluster effort in front of him. Through 40 minutes, the ‘Hawks were being outshot 40-14 by Nashville.
It didn’t take long for the Predators to put the game away in the third period. Nick Bonino scored just 3:40 into the period to pick up the natural hat trick and make it 3-0 Nashville. Oddly enough, it was almost the same goal all three times. Bonino was left all alone in front of Lehner once again, and all he had to do was tap in a rebound for his third career hat trick.
Erik Gustafsson was the defenseman that allowed Bonino the open look in front of the net. It was the second time that Gustafsson’s soft play led to a Predators goal.
The Blackhawks did very little in the final minutes of the game, as they seemed almost contempt with a 3-0 loss. Jeremy Colliton has his work cut out for him, as the Blackhawks seem to be struggling in every department except goaltending right now. The loss gives the Blackhawks a 3-6-2 record through their first 11 games.
5 Takeaways From Tuesday’s Game
- The powerplay continues to come up empty for the Blackhawks. After going 0-for-2 on Tuesday night, the ‘Hawks are now 0-for-21 with the man advantage in the last six games. Jeremy Colliton went with a different look against Nashville, as Brandon Saad was on the top unit instead of Jonathan Toews. Look for more of that from Colliton in the future.
- Speaking of Jonathan Toews, the guy has been a ghost through 11 games this season. The Blackhawks captain has just two points (1G, 1A) on the year, and his lone goal bounced in off his shin pads. In the last six games, Toews has 0 points, just nine shots on goal, and a -6 plus/minus rating. Just not enough from him right now.
- Brent Seabrook was a healthy scratch for the second consecutive game on Tuesday, but he should have no trouble drawing into the lineup Saturday. Dennis Gilbert was a -2 on the night, and Slater Koekkoek took two penalties. Erik Gustafsson was also a liability in the defensive zone all game. One of those three will likely be in the press box on Saturday vs. the Kings.
- While there weren’t many positives from this game, Robin Lehner did credit his defense for working with him tonight. Looking at the stat sheet, the Blackhawks blocked a whopping 24 shots. Now, that certainly means they didn’t have the puck a whole lot, but it was a courageous effort at least by the backend. Both Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan blocked four shots, while Duncan Keith led the team with five.
- Kirby Dach has now played six games with the Blackhawks this season. Of course, if that number gets to 10 games, the first year of his entry-level contract will be burned. Just a few days ago, it seemed almost certain that Dach would stick around for the long haul. Now, after the Blackhawks recent struggles, the feeling is a little more unsettling. Dach seems capable of playing in the NHL this season, but do the Blackhawks want to waste a year of his contract on a season that’s trending the wrong direction?
The Blackhawks will head to Los Angeles where they play the Kings on Saturday night. This will be the second meeting between these two teams in less than a week, as the Blackhawks won the first matchup on Sunday 5-1 in Chicago. Both teams are near the bottom of the Western Conference and will take two points however they can get it. The game is slated for 9:30 p.m. and is scheduled to be on NBCSCH and FS-W.
For more Blackhawks news and updates, follow the author (@JackBushman2) on Twitter. Make sure to check out the author’s podcast, Talkin’ Hawkey, which can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Twitter (TalkinHawkey).