The Chicago Blackhawks just can’t seem to beat those pesky Predators. On Saturday afternoon they endured their fifth straight defeat to Nashville in this 2020-21 season. And to add insult to injury it was a shutout loss. Man, those were the days when the Blackhawks actually took the Predators to overtime and a shootout earlier in the season. It’s gotten worse as they’ve gone along, losing 3-1 and then 3-2 in late March, and finally a 3-0 shutout in this last outing.
The Predators now lead with 41 points on the season, which gives them sole possession of fourth-place playoff spot in the Discover Central Division. The Blackhawks are stuck at 39 points. Here are my three takeaways from the Blackhawks’ latest loss.
Blackhawks’ Shots and Chances
The irony of this hockey game was that the Blackhawks ended the day with 41 shots on goal, a season high for them. It wasn’t just a lot of shots from the outside either, as they generated 17 five-on-five high danger chances to the Predators’ four. It was also the Blackhawks’ first shutout loss of the season. Opposing goaltender Juuse Saros should be credited with an excellent performance.
In this game, the Blackhawks overcame their recent trend of getting off to slow starts in games. After four previous matchups with bad first periods, the Blackhawks outshot the Predators 14-to-6 in the first frame on Saturday. Unfortunately, a rather stupid elbowing penalty by Nikita Zadorov led to a power play goal by the Predators. This negated any momentum the Blackhawks were building. Special teams play was certainly a factor in this one. Which leads me to my next point.
Power Play Problems
The Blackhawks were 0-for-4 on the power play in this game, but that doesn’t do justice to the sheer ugliness of the situation. On their first power play they turned the puck over twice, leading to scoring chances against. One was a breakaway attempt for the Predators where goaltender Kevin Lankinen had to make and spectacular save. The Blackhawks only managed one shot on goal in this two-minute effort.
The second power play was even worse. It resulted in zero shots on goal for the Blackhawks, and another breakaway chance, this time for the Predators’ Colton Sissons. Defenseman Adam Boqvist was forced to commit a hooking penalty in an attempt to thwart the effort. This led to a penalty shot and another goal for the Predators.
The third (and the fourth) time’s the charm, right?! The Blackhawks actually had a golden opportunity here, with a two-man advantage for 1:55 minutes off two consecutive penalties by the Predators. Instead, they looked flat and predictable. They managed just two shots on goal. It didn’t help that Kirby Dach lost all three of his draws on this 5-on-3, forcing the Blackhawks to waste valuable time retrieving the puck.
This Blackhawks’ team has been among the top three in the league on the power play for most of the season, so the performance on Saturday was certainly perplexing. I should note that Dach and Dominik Kubalik are new members to the top PP unit (replacing Brandon Hagel and Carl Soderberg), so it could be a matter of gelling as a group. We shall see if they can bounce back moving forward.
One final thing to note from this game was the healthy scratch of 35-year-old veteran Carl Soderberg. It was his first game missed since joining the team late due to visa issues at the beginning of the season. This might just be a coincidence as head coach Jeremy Colliton wants to get Matthew Highmore and other younger players into the lineup more. Which is commendable as the Blackhawks look to develop their youth and commit to a rebuild. Or…it could be indicative of things to come with the trade deadline looming on April 12.
It’s true Soderberg is a top candidate to be moved at the deadline. He’s currently signed to a team friendly one-year deal at $1 million, and would be a solid pick-up for a team trying to make a long playoff run. The Blackhawks could potentially acquire some decent picks and prospects for Soderberg.
Even so, the scratch of Soderberg on Saturday was a bit of a surprise. He’s been a solid bottom six center for the Blackhawks, and one of the best faceoff men on the team, at just over 51% this season. Soderberg has also found a bit of an unexpected niche on the top power play unit, scoring four of his six season goals as the net front presence on the man advantage. It could be worth it in the long run, but the Blackhawks will be a weaker team without Soderberg’s presence in the lineup. We saw that firsthand in this contest.
Other Blackhawks News & Notes
Here are a few other notable observations from this Blackhawks’ matchup against the Predators.
- On Friday afternoon, the Blackhawks re-acquired Vinnie Hinostroza from the Florida Panthers in exchange for Rockford IceHog forward Brad Morrison. Hinostroza reportedly drove to Chicago instead of flying to lessen his quarantine time.
- Defensive prospect Wyatt Kalynuk played in his third consecutive game for the Blackhawks on Saturday. He logged 13:58 minutes of ice time, and is looking more and more confident. He earned his first NHL assist last Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes.
- With Eddie Olczyk committed to national broadcasting duties, Kendall Coyne Schofield joined Pat Foley as the color analyst for this Blackhawks’ game, becoming the first female to do so. Coyne Schofield is a six-time gold medal winner at the IIHF World’s Women’s Championships, and has another gold medal from the 2018 Winter Olympics. She also serves as the player development coach for the Blackhawks and the IceHogs.
- Patrick Kane has been surprisingly quiet of late. In this last matchup against the Predators, he was held to just one shot on goal.
All in all, this was a really tough loss for the Blackhawks. Despite doing a lot of things right, they still looked like the weaker team, and came out on the losing end for the 10th time in the last 14 games. It’s going to be an uphill battle from here on out to regain their momentum in a tight race for the playoffs.
The Blackhawks will host the Dallas Stars (36 points but four games in hand) for two contests this Tuesday and Thursday before traveling to Columbus to face the Blue Jackets (36 points to the Blackhawks’ 39 points) Saturday and next Monday. Never a dull moment as the playoff race continues.
Avid Chicago Blackhawks fan and follower! Would much rather be reading and writing about hockey than cooking and cleaning. Otherwise known as The Hockey Housewife.