By Brad Vandenberk
Remember November 16, 2013? That was the last time the Hawks entered Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. The game ended looking more like a murder scene than a hockey game. The Predators taught the Hawks a lesson, defeating them 7-2. After that game, the Hawks went on to win their next seven out of eight, which included their circus road trip. If we look back to Saturday night when the Hawks were blown out on the road 7-3, we start to see a trend here. The Hawks then came home on Sunday to play a complete effort beating up on the LA Kings 3-1. Now it’s back to the scene of the crime to show why Chicago are the defending Cup champs.
After the morning skate it was made official that Bryan Bickell made his return back to the line up playing alongside Andrew Shaw and Brandon Saad. It was also announced that Corey Crawford would begin skating by week’s end.
Antti Raanta got the start once again for the visiting Hawks, while at the other end it was a familiar foe and ex-Hawk Carter Hutton, who was up against a few of his old teammates. The players watching this one from above were, Michal Rozsival, Michael Kostka and Corey Crawford.
It didn’t take the Hawks long to break through Hutton. Just 1:29 after puck drop, Marian Hossa leaves a puck at the blue line and Duncan Keith blows a shot past Hutton 1-0. On the faceoff after the goal Marcus Kruger gets called for delay of game putting his hand over the puck. On the ensuing power play Raanta makes a big save but Shea Weber makes them pay blasting his own version of a point shot tying the game at 1. Saad sends a puck through the crease but no one is there to knock it home. Nick Leddy is the next victim shown the penalty box door getting called for interference. The Hawks kill this one off a lot better than the first one. Matt Hendricks takes a run at Brent Seabrook, and Seabs makes a big play to get the puck out. The Preds begin to push back. Raanta and Hutton both share great saves as the action goes from end to end. Another ex-Hawk Viktor Stalberg gets a few chances on Raanta. Shaw draws a penalty when Colin Wilson gets called for holding. Kane and Toews break in on a 2 on 1 and Kane keeps the puck and roofs a backhand up over Hutton making it 2-1 Hawks. Kane gets called for a late minute tripping call and the Hawks end the period killing the penalty and getting out shot 17-10.
The Predators have trouble counting the players on the ice and get called for Too Many Men just 1:53 in. Leddy jumps over the boards and seems to be the extra defensemen on the ice. He takes advantage of the situation with 2 great chances point blank, Hutton saving both. During the power play Raanta comes out to almost the blue line making a great heads up pass. The Preds begin to push back and Raanta stays strong. Patrick Sharp draws a tripping call from Stalberg. Hawks head back to the power play. This time Leddy cashes in. He comes off the point and sends the puck right up inside the attic. The original call was no goal but after a review it was clear to see. Hawks up 3-1 on 2 power play goals. Just when you thought the Predators learned how to count, they get busted again for Too Manny Men penalty. Just a 1:07 into the man advantage, Sharp gets his stick up on Nick Spaling and gets a 4 minute minor for drawing blood. The Hawks make quick work of the kill with Hossa breaking in shorthanded and Kruger and Saad both getting great looks. Raanta also makes some serious saves during the 3:07 power play. The period had just 30 seconds left and Hendricks decides to hammer Brookbank in wide open ice drawing the Interference call. The Preds continue to hold the shot edge 21-18.
The Hawks get 1:30 of power play time to open the final frame. Paul Gaustad gets a great shorthanded opportunity, but Sharp comes back and makes the defensive play. Versteeg and Kane break in on a 2 on 1 and Versteeg loses the puck. The Toews, Hossa, Sharp line continue to dominate. All 3 guys get chances on a single shift. The Hawks begin to control the pace of the game with Nashville struggling to put a shot on net. At the 13:03 mark, Versteeg heads to the box for high sticking, no blood was drawn. The Preds pass the puck around a lot and Stalberg finally gets his power play time but puts a shot right into the chest of Raanta. The Hawks kill off the penalty but right after struggle to clear their zone. The domination continues to take place, Saad, Shaw and Hossa all in succession. Patric Hornqvist seems to lose his cool over an icing call and he lets the linesmen know about it. Ben Smith makes a nice hard move toward the net almost slipping one by Hutton. Toews line continues to toy with the Preds D. They work a great tic-tac-toe passing play, but Hossa can’t solve Hutton point blank. Seabrook takes a late penalty for tripping and the Hawks are forced to end the game on a 6 on 4 after Hutton heads to the bench. Toews gets a great empty net chance and Raanta stands tall with the Hawks claiming victory 3-1.
Sharp Toews Hossa Keith Seabrook
Versteeg Handzus Kane Oduya Hjalmarsson
Bickell Shaw Saad Leddy Brookbank
Bollig Kruger Smith
-Nashville edges the Hawks in shots 28-27
-Hawks go 2/5 on the power play with the Blues going 1/6.
-Keith led in TOI with 26:40 the next closest Hawk was D partner Seabrook with 23:31
-Toews was 6/16 in the faceoff dot, Handzus 3/12, Shaw 1/4 and Kruger 6/8.
-Kane extended his point streak to 10 games with his 20th goal of the season, 9 of them on the power play.
-Keith’s goal and assists gives him 32 points which leads all NHL defensemen.
-The Hawks now get 2 days off before they host the Vancouver Canucks on Friday at the UC.