Blackhawks Fail to Finish Off Predators

If games 3 and 4 served as reassurances to Blackhawks fans that their team would be able to come through against Nashville and advance to the next round, game 5 on Thursday night was the exact opposite of that. Nashville came out on top 5-2, and in doing so they certainly hope that they planted a seed of doubt in the heads of their opponents.

A Poor Start to a Bad Ending

James Neal's big shot isn't available in Pittsburgh anymore  (Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr)
(Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr)

This was a tied hockey game at 1-1 through two periods. It was anybody’s game, and Chicago was a strong 20 minutes away from ending the Predators’ season and getting a nice stretch of time off before their next series. When they should have come out ready to empty the tank so they could rest up, they were instead unable to handle a desperate Nashville team both mentally and physically.

James Neal flew around the net untouched and tucked the puck in past Scott Darling just 47 seconds into the final frame. Nobody appeared to be particularly interested in stopping him.

Colin Wilson followed Neal’s goal up less than three minutes later on the powerplay with his fifth goal of the series. That ties him for the playoff lead with St. Louis wunderkind Vladimir Tarasenko. Wilson and Ribeiro played a nice two man game on the right half wall, and they were unchallenged in playing catch and getting the puck past Darling right in front of the net.

A mere 12 seconds after that, it was Filip Forsberg streaking down the left wing (again completely unchallenged, you’re noticing a pattern here hopefully), accepting a pass from Mike Fisher, and one-timing the puck past a helpless Scott Darling.

So not even four minutes into the third period, what was just prior a tie game morphed into a three goal advantage for the Predators. That’s not exactly the recipe Chicago needs for finishing off this series.

Tighten Up the Defense

(Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)
(Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

This seriously must happen in game 6. The defense was bad last night, and there’s no way around that fact. The defensive zone coverage has to be better. The neutral zone play has to improve as well. As we saw on Forsberg’s second goal, you can’t just let skilled players build speed up the ice heading toward your net. Formations have to be kept in the neutral zone, and assignments have to be solidified in the D-zone.

Nashville’s talent up front isn’t the best in the playoffs by any stretch, but it’s certainly enough to eat you alive if you let it. That’s exactly what they did on Thursday.

Game 6 is big. It’s Chicago’s chance to close Nashville out at home. If the Preds pull this one out, the Blackhawks are suddenly faced with a do-or-die scenario in game 7 against a revitalized Predators team and a Nashville crowd that would surely be raucous.

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