Blackhawks 4, Predators 2

The last time the Blackhawks faced off against the Predators in Nashville on February 24th, they took a 3-1 lead into the third period following a dominating second period.  When the dust settled after the third, the Predators scored 4 unanswered goals and gave the ‘Hawks their toughest loss of the season.

Tonight, the ‘Hawks took a 3-1 lead into the third following a dominating second period.  When Jason Arnott scored with 16 and a half minutes left in the game, it was deja vu all over again.  All the momentum the ‘Hawks built up in the second frame was gone in the blink of an eye.

This time, though, the ‘Hawks and Nikolai Khabibulin had an answer for everything the Predators tried and got an incredibly fortuitious bounce with a minute left.  

With an empty net and the top line of Arnott, Sullivan, and Dumont matched up against Havlat, Toews, and Kane with Walker and Barker, the Predators had the match they were looking for. 

When the puck went behind the net, Toews and Barker were battling with their assignments.  Once the puck switched sides, Matt Walker abandoned his post and left the man in front all alone.  To the surprise of no one, the puck came right in front to the extra attacker, Vernon Fiddler.  Right before it got on his stick, the puck hopped right over it and on to Kane’s stick.  He was off to the races and fed it to Martin Havlat who deposited the puck into the empty net to give the ‘Hawks their 99th point.  

Fiddler opened up the scoring tonight when he skated out of the corner with the puck on the power play.  Ham Sandwich overcommitted to the high man and left Fiddler all alone.  Walker was standing in front of the net trying to tie up his man.  After taking the puck hard towards the net, Fiddler fired the puck right off Walker’s skate and into the net.

Following the intermission, it took all of 12 seconds for Jonathan Toews to tie the score.  After picking up the puck in the neutral zone, Toews took advantage of a dumb defensive play by Dan Hamhuis.  With a ton of open ice, Hamhuis declined to pressue Toews, and instead chose to pick up Patrick Kane on the other side of the ice, forcing his defensive partner to come all the way across to defend the rush.  Toews took full advantage of the room and lasered a shot right past Pekka Rinne’s blocker. 

40 seconds later, Dustin Byfuglien banged home an Andrew Ladd rebound and just like that, the ‘Hawks turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead.  Another terrible Nashville defensive giveaway found Patrick Kane on his backhand from 15 feet out.  Kane fired a backhand right under Rinne’s arm and the ‘Hawks were in the same spot they were on February 24th when the second period ended (Coincidentally, Kane also scored the ‘Hawks third goal that night).

With the win, the ‘Hawks have all but sewn the number 4 seed and home-ice advantage for the playoffs.  (Cue the release of doves and harps playing) Much of that could be thanks to the beleaguered Dustin Byfuglien.  Byfuglien played like someone dropped a family of scorpions into his jock strap.  He was hitting everything in sight and seemed to control the puck every time it went into the corner.  How he wasn’t one of the three stars is beyond me.

Someone who didn’t play well tonight, Matt Walker.  Other than the aforementioned two bonehead plays, he made another when Radek Bonk poked a loose puck past him and proceeded to rocket a shot off the post.  This is why +/- can be such a misleading statistic.  Walker was a +2 on the night and was without question, the worst player on the ice with an Indian head sweater.  It’s bodering on insanity how he keeps getting important minutes down the stretch.

Don’t tell that to the play-by-play duo, though.  Foley and Edzo spent an inordinate amount of time praising Walker’s every move.  They claimed his toughness and physicality is something the ‘Hawks need on a nightly basis. 

Ok, this whole toughness argument, it’s nonsense and here’s why: 99% of NHL players are tough.  It’s not this rare quality that only one man can provide on the team.  And as for his physicality, how does shoving someone in the back after they just put the puck in net give them second thoughts about coming back there?  

One of the biggest factors of the upcoming playoff series will be if Q insists on giving Walker important minutes.  If it does, the ‘Hawks will be out as quick as they were in.

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7 Responses to Blackhawks 4, Predators 2

  1. blackhawkbob says:

    Regarding Matt Walker, here’s the harsh truth:

    With the Campbell/Ham Sandwich pairing seeing only one shift in the last ten minutes yesterday evening, the Walker/Barker pairing will absolutely be counted on to play big time minutes in big time games. Unless Q magically comes to prefer Aaron Johnson over Walker – we thought that was the case a couple weeks ago – we’ll all just have to get used to it.

    It could be worse: Q could be relying on Campbell to play the big defensive minutes…

  2. Fork says:

    That fluke bounce should come as a surprise to nobody, the Nashville ice surface is shit.

  3. John says:

    The most frustrating part for me is Ham Sandwich made one obvious mistake last night and was forced to open the door for most of the third period. Walker makes a mistake on a per shift basis and keeps getting thrown out there. I wonder if Walker’s dad gave Q a Harley….

  4. josh! says:

    More like walker’s dad gave Dr. Quenn Medicine Woman a hummer, and no not the gas-guzzling kind ;). Seriously though, it is beyond me why Brouwer is still getting looks from the coaching staff when his production is horrible, (26 pts while playing the majority of the season with Kaner and Toews?) while both Tim Brent and Pascal Pelletier rot in Rockford. Is it entirely about big bodies in today’s NHL? , because supposed physical players like Byfuglien, Walker, and Brouwer, are playing big minutes while smaller skill guys are given one-and-done opportunities by management.

  5. John says:

    Josh, you’re preaching to the choir here. I’ve been beating that drum since the beginning of February…

  6. John says:

    Those are just a couple of the places where I’ve asked the very same question you have.

  7. josh! says:

    Glad to see I’m not the only one. As I’m watching tonight’s game I’m not suprised to see Walker being the direct cause of yet another Columbus goal, one that should NOT have gone in. However, I can’t place the blame solely on Walker, although I know the majority of the world could without a problem, as three of the black sweaters stood in awe of Columbus like they were 12 yr olds seeing their first naked woman. I think I now know why I’m just so angry all the time. Oh well, at least I’ve got this big-toothed widemouth blonde “reporter” to placate me during intermission.

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