If the hockey gods intend for the Chicago Blackhawks to advance to the second round in the Western Conference bracket of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they’ve delayed their advance by at least one game. The Hawks couldn’t eliminate the Nashville Predators on Thursday night as they lost in Nashville 5-2. Chicago still leads the series 3-2, but the momentum has clearly swung in favor of the Predators. Defense was the biggest issue for the Hawks in more ways than one.
Hawks goaltender Scott Darling, who had been practically invincible to this point, was not his usual self in game five. Out of the five goals he allowed, four of them came in the third period. The first three of those four goals all happened within the opening 3:14 of the final frame. After allowing the opening goal in the first period Darling seemed to settle down. He looked he was settled in the second period as he stopped all 11 shots that came his way. But after allowing that first third period goal, Darling was uncomfortable for the rest of the night (finished the game with an .857 save percentage).
The Predators Swedish sensation was a one man wrecking crew and the Hawks were powerless to stop him Thursday night. He got his first career playoff hat trick in game five, he now has four career postseason goals, and five points for the 2015 playoffs. He’s also a plus-1 in the plus/minus category. The 20-year-old began the scoring with the opening first period goal which was unassisted. He then scored the third goal in that three minute assault in early in the third period. Then he got his hat trick with an empty net, power play goal with 10 seconds remaining. Until game five the Blackhawks had managed to contain Forsberg.
After being nominated for the Selke Trophy this week, Toews definitely didn’t look the part on Thursday night. He was a minus-1, went 7-for-12 in the faceoff circle (36.8 percent), only dished out four hits, didn’t block a single shot, and only had two shots on his own. It was off night for sure but the Hawks will need him to bounce back in game six.
The unit struggled as a whole. Niklas Hjalmarsson, Duncan Keith, Johnny Oduya, Michal Rozsival, Brent Seabrook, and Kimmo Timonen gave very little production on this night. They combined for just four hits, nine blocked shots, four takeaways, four giveaways, and couldn’t find the back of the net despite taking six total shots on goal. They were also a combined minus-2, and 2-for-4 on the penalty kill. Not good at all considering they combined for 115:05 of total ice time.
Game six will be back in Chicago on Saturday night. The Hawks are hoping that being on home ice will give them the boost they need. Improving on defense will need to be a part of that boost of they want to finally put Nashville away. Follow me on Twitter @GabeSalgado82
Gabe has worked in sports media for over decade and has been heard on the radio, and seen on television in addition to writing.