Predators 4, Blackhawks 1

Even when things go to plan, they don’t. 

Save for the first ten minutes of the second period and the last two minutes of the third, the Hawks were the better team on the ice.  Of course, during that twelve minute stretch, the Predators scored three goals.  With Nashville goalie Dan Ellis not coughing up any juicy rebounds and the Hawks unable to capitalize on the rare loose pucks Ellis did give up, it was more than enough for the Predators to grab two points in one of the more difficult buildings in the league.

The Hawks got on the board first when Jonathan Toews celebrated his new contract by re-enacting his infamous goal against the Colorado Avalanche from his rookie season.  Toews faked Dan Hamhuis out of his Under Armour when he made his now patented inside-outside move, cut across the crease, and snuck the puck past Ellis.

It looked the Hawks were going to roll after that.  They put together a couple of really solid shifts.  Patrick Kane came close to extending the lead when he fired a shot from the left face-off circle.  The puck squirted through Ellis, hit the post, then slid across the crease and out of danger.

Unfortunately, it’s never that easy with the Predators.  With just under three minutes left in the first, Hamhuis ripped a slap shot past a screened Cristobal Huet to tie the score at 1.  The Hawks fourth line did not have their best shift on that goal.

The late goal seemed to breath some life into Nashville.  They came out in the second and really knocked the Hawks on their heels.  Their forecheck seemed to be giving the Hawks defense fits and any time the Hawks spent in the Nashville end was short-lived. 

Just past the six and a half minute mark, Patrick Kane led a rush into the Predators zone.  He put on the brakes and waited for a trailing teammate.  Brian Campbell crossed the blue line and Kane’s pass slid right through his legs.  The loose puck allowed the Predators an odd-man rush coming the other way.  

While the rush was broken up, the puck slid to the boards where Jordin Tootoo turned and fired it to the net.  The puck deflected off Martin Erat’s skate and into the net to give Nashville a lead they’d never lose.

The Hawks had gobs of chances for the equalizer after that.  They got three shots on their only power play and spent most of the two minutes in Nashville’s end.  Kane, Toews, Duncan Keith, and Dustin Byfuglien all had golden opportunities to add to the Hawks goal total. 

Then, after spending the majority of the third period in the Predators’ end, the Hawks lost a defensive zone draw, John Madden lost track of his assignment, and the puck was behind Huet just like that. 

For good measure, a minute later, the Hawks coughed up the puck in the neutral zone and Joel Ward finished off the 2-on-1.  Nothing says Blackhawks-Predators quite like Martin Erat and Joel Ward breaking your heart.

Quickies 

–After the local press has spent the last three days building up the Hawks to Edmonton Oilers circa 1984 proportions, expect the backlash and building jumping to start rather quickly if the Hawks drop tomorrow night’s game.  If you’re not familiar with their game plan, it goes as follows: 

1) If good team in town has won, they do no wrong.  Unless if it’s the Bears, then nothing is good enough unless they gain over 500 yards and hold their opponent to -42 yards because that’s what the ’85 Bears did for 19 weeks. 

2) If team has lost one game, no big deal, but start to plant seeds of doubt.  Maybe they’re not good enough to win it all after all. 

3) If said team loses two games in a row, instruct people to turn on their snowblowers and stick their heads underneath them. 

It will be no different here.  You’ve been warned.

–The Hawks fourth line was hideous once again, as it has been for most of this year.  Now, I’m not going to say Adam Burish is the missing link here, but clearly something is off.  Ben Eager appears to be afraid of another concussion as he has yet to play with the reckless abandon we became familiar with last year; Tomas Kopecky looks like he wants his contract to be bought out in June, and Colin Fraser is blah.  Joel Quenneville tried giving them a regular shift in the second period to get some energy going.  Suffice to say, it didn’t really work out. 

–Would Martin Erat still be in the league if the Hawks didn’t exist? 

*On the Farm*

The Hawks were stonewalled by the opposing goalie on Friday night but the Rockford IceHogs had the hot goalie in their match-up against the Grand Rapids Griffins.  Newly recalled Alec Richards stopped 33 of the 34 shots he faced to give Rockford a 2-1 victory and their fourth win in a row.

Mark Cullen scored the first goal of the game in a 4-on-4 situation with assists going to Kyle Greentree and Jassen Cullimore.  Greentree’s assist extended his point streak to five games.

Evan Brophey broke the 1-1 with an unassisted goal just past the two minute mark of the second period.  From there, Richards brought the game home for Rockford. 

Richards was recalled back to Rockford from Toledo earlier in the day.

Shawn Lalonde was pointless in Belleville’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Oshawa Generals.  Lalonde did have a fighting major in the second period and was the second shooter in the shootout.  He didn’t score.

Kyle Beach scored two goals in Spokane’s 4-2 win over the Seattle Thunderbirds.  One of the goals came on the power play and one was an empty-netter to clinch the victory for the Chiefs.

Byron Froese had an assist in Everett’s 5-3 loss to the Portland Winterhawks. 

Dylan Olsen had 4 shots on goal but was pointless in UMD’s 4-2 loss to North Dakota.  Dan DeLisle dressed but was a non-factor.

Billy Sweatt was held scoreless in Colorado College’s 2-1 loss to the University of Denver.  The two teams meet again tomorrow with first place in the WCHA on the line.

Brandon Pirri was also scoreless in RPI’s 2-1 loss to Cornell (Ever heard of it?).

–Since we’re in need of some good news, 2008 6th round pick Ben Smith had an assist in Boston College’s 3-1 win over UMass.

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12 Responses to Predators 4, Blackhawks 1

  1. Lou says:

    It was a blah game. Toews goal was a beauty and then is was turnovers by the dynamic duo (Soup and Barker) missed chance after missed chance coupled with headstand after headstand by Dan Ellis.
    The refs did let a lot go and probably were a little loose in calling the game but that really didn’t impact it too much.

    There were a lot of predictable cross ice passes on breakouts that were intercepted. Seabrook was the leader in that.

    I think you nailed the 4th line well. Eager is not playing with abandon and you have to wonder if it is because of the concussion thing or is it because he is not confident in who is watching his back. Kopecky is a rented mule and his game is well, I am not sure what his game is or what he actually does. As for Colin Fraser, I wanted to get rid of him last year for a new shovel for the ice girls.

    SOme positives, Sopel took a blocked shot on the PK and was noticeably in pain. Our guys fought their butts off for 1:30 or so of the PK with him basically protecting the back door while they couldn’t clear the puck out. He was obviously in big pain and he hung in there. Sopel showed a lot of heart.

    Kane is gifted creating space.

    Madden never takes a shift off. Neither does Hossa on the back check those two guys set a good vibe.

    Hossa has five points in 5 games.

    IMHO, we need to make a smart move or two and shore up the third blue line pair sooner than later. I don’t think we can and should wait until the off season.

  2. Dave Morris says:

    Excellent recap, gentlemen.

    However, I saw no mention of Brent Sopel’s courageous stand when taking a blocked slap shot to the inside of the knee.

    Mr. Sopel has proven himself to be a worthy warrior this year, has he not?

    And one wonders…is there a reason why the Hawks seem to have so much trouble clearing their zone lately?

    The Predators played a perfect road game, and a perfect Barry Trotz game. The Blackhawks might want to study that approach, and apply the lessons learned.

    Listening to their coaches would also be a good idea. Mike Haviland’s 3rd period directives did not seem to be heeded by Da Boyz.

    @Lou> forget trades. StanBow’s already said, “We can play with this team for the rest of the year, and may choose to do that.”

    There’s more than enough talent on this team. That talent is now expected to perform to its maximum.

    And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, your Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

    There’s the benchmark game. Comin’ right up.

  3. Lou says:

    @Dave, I don’t think that statement is anything more than a well thought poker move. This buys him air cover and working room in the event he does or doesn’t make a trade. He could run for Cook County office with that kind of PR polish.

    Bolland’s recovery and the 3rd pair of the D are gonna drive any trades. Also, StanBow will work from a position of control and may not necessarily wnat to put his back to the wall in the off season.

    I do agree it is about performing to capabilities and the team has the talent to do so. Now it is about continuous effort and improvement. The really scary thing is this a young team.

    I think the Hawks arent strong at dump and chase to offset the teams that are trapping them in the neutral zone and slowing transition down. Maybe a good flip the puck up and over kind of like an ally oop will free up someone. Otherwise, Madden and his gang of bangers are gonna have to help. This is where Burish is missed because he is good at this aspect of the game.

    Any way you shake it, I’ll take 9/10 at home in a row.

  4. Dave Morris says:

    @Lou> last night, Brouwer, Ladd and Fraser combined for a single hit. Eager has one goal in 14 games. Kopecky, heck who knows what’s ailing him.

    These are the guys who need to be playing their A-game when facing a team like the Predators, who conversely had excellent performances from their support guys like Joel Ward (IMO one of the MOST underappreciated players in the league) and Jordin Tootoo.

    Coaches will repeat over and over again how hockey is a simple game. And Quenneville was unequivocal in his post game comments: “We had a real good game going and then they scored and all of a sudden things changed a little bit. I think we had a lot more pucks on the net earlier on in the game and all of a sudden we got too cute.”

    Execute=don’t get too cute.

    The Hawks either listen to Quenneville, and execute, or they don’t.

    Last night they didn’t.

  5. Lou says:

    Well said Dave.

    Hits aside, those guys all need to be in front of the net screening the goalie. We had lots of good shots from outside and no traffic. Ellis made saves but they weren’t real difficult.

    Great point on Joel Ward and would love to see him playing for us someday. He really plays his role very well and is a solid hockey player. Tootoo is a great story and gets a lot of miles out of his small stature and big heart.

    Buff has no energy and no drive. And it is sad, given his size, he could be a monster. He chooses (and yes i use that word) to use or not use the discretion effort to be great. Right now it doesn’t look like he is using it. And he did take a really stupid boarding penalty and when he didn’t have a stick. His head is not in the game on a regular basis.

    I really think Burish’s energy makes that line go and Eager is still recovering.

    Wild thought, maybe Kopecky is pouting b/c he is not getting minutes or maybe he just isn’t as good as billed. Don’t know but would be interested in what our distinguished authors could interject on him.

  6. John says:

    I don’t think anyone here billed Kopecky as this great player or even good for that matter. Bobby said after seeing him in one and a half periods he’s going to be bought out. He’s just not very good. Don’t know how anyone can say different.

  7. Lou says:

    Thanks John, I know you guys didn’t bill him that way. That was how the Hawks billed him.

    I agree he is just not a fit here.

    What do you guys think of StanBow’s statement that Dave referrred to?

  8. John says:

    Typical GM speak.

  9. Dave Morris says:

    John, Lou> I would beg to differ with your characterization of Mr. Stanley Bowman’s statements as ‘GM speak’.

    Rather, I interpret his statement as being a message not only to fellow GMs, but to fans and to the players…as well as the coaching staff.

    To fellow GMs, it’s “We’re always ready to talk, but we’re in no hurry.”

    To the fans, it’s: “We’ve spent a ton of money already on this team, so don’t expect us to keep wheeling and dealing, nor shop these players like trading cards. Learn to love ’em.”

    To the players, it’s: “You want a job here next year? Earn it.”

    To the coaching staff, it’s: “You’ve got the personnel. Turn them into winners.”

    I don’t think Stan Bowman feels the need to overstate his case. He strikes me as someone who goes about his business with no fanfare.

    Works for me.

    BTW we may see Mssrs Eager and Kopecky make way for (choose one or more from the following) Mssrs Bickell, Klinkhammer, Dowell, Greentree and Skille before the season is out. The fourth line, Mr Fraser’s improvements at the dot and on the PK aside, simply hasn’t been as good as they should be.

    Mr. Eager, in particular, is missing the edge his game had in the playoffs last year, and I suspect the concussion symptoms are not fully resolved.

    BTW BTW I am convinced Mr. Byfuglien is still dealing with the groin injury that sidelined him early in the campaign. There is no other logical reason I can surmise for his limited mobility.

    March of The Penguins this evening, gentlemen. Let’s hope the Hawks don’t get beaked.

  10. John says:

    Dave, if Bowman says a simple statement and it can be taken to mean a number of different things, then I characterize that as ‘Typical GM speak’. We’re in agreement on this, I just think you didn’t understand what I was saying by that.

    If the Hawks are going to call up one of those aforementioned Rockfordites, they’re going to need to clear some payroll because they’ll have those pesky tagging issues pop back up.

  11. Dave Morris says:

    @John> thanks for that…I know we agree fundamentally.

    And you are absolutely right that cap and tagging issues are going to be front and center all season long…but if Kopecky and Eager aren’t up to the task, they may find themselves elsewhere…that a good $2 million plus that can be better invested.

    Hoping the Hawks are on task this evening…

  12. Dave Morris says:

    Well, folks, an important win for the Blackhawks against the Stanley Cup Champions.

    Mssrs Niemi, Hossa and Versteeg, all deliver the goods.

    The Herald reminds us this is the Hawks’ first win in Pittsburgh since Feb. 22, 1997.

    And Mr Jordan Hendry has demonstrated he is a capable alternative to Mr. Kopecky.

    Happy Sunday, everyone.

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