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.
–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.