By Jon Fromi
The Chicago Blackhawks fell prey to the close to the vest style of Barry Trotz and the visiting Nashville Predators. Nashville may not be going to the playoffs but that didn’t stop them from holding the Hawks scoreless Sunday night, handing Chicago a 2-0 defeat.
First Period-Chicago outshot the Predators 11-6 but still managed to find itself on the short end of a 1-0 deficit.
Both teams were active early, with Sheldon Brookbank facing off against Rich Clune at the 5:56 point of the opening period. Chicago gained a power play opportunity in the ninth minute when Matt Cullen hooked Kris Versteeg but the Hawks couldn’t manage much.
The third line of a returning Brandon Saad, Ben Smith and Jeremy Morin created some pressure on Nashville, but it was the Predators who got the scoring started late in the period. With 1:22 left, Mike Fisher redirected a Ryan Ellis shot past Corey Crawford.
Second Period-The Blackhawks had some great pressure in the Nashville zone in the second minute started by the fourth line and maintaining possession through a full line change.
Morin put Roman Josi into the boards with a big hit and was jumped by half the Predators on the ice. When the smoke cleared, Eric Nystrom was assessed a pair of roughing minors. The Hawks had four minutes of 5-on-4 to work with. Unfortunately, the time rolled off the clock without Chicago finding the net. Andrew Shaw put a stop to the power play when he held the stick of Nick Spaling 7:15 into the period.
While the Blackhawks continued to have trouble figuring out Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne, the Predators bided their time and waited for a chance to build on their lead. It came, like the first Nashville goal, late in the period.
Gabriel Bourque beat Brent Seabrook to a loose puck in the Predators zone. Tapping the puck into open ice, Bourque swooped up the ice and across the Chicago blue line. Skating to the left dot, he fired a shot that whizzed over Crawford’s glove at the 17:35 mark to make the score 2-0 Nashville.
Third Period-Thanks to an altercation between Shea Weber and Versteeg at the second-period buzzer after Duncan Keith tripped Bourque, the teams began the final 20 minutes with the Predators on the power play. The Hawks killed the penalty but couldn’t put a dent in the Nashville lead. Chicago could only manage three shots on goal in the first half of the period.
A Brandon Bollig boarding penalty put the Predators on the power play midway through the period. Nashville couldn’t convert but was tightening the vise defensively on the Hawks.
Joel Quenneville pulled Crawford with over two minutes to play in an attempt to get on the board but Chicago was denied by Rinne and Chicago was blanked for the second time this season.
Three Stars-Fisher (third), Weber (second), Rinne (first).
-This shaped up rather quickly into the type of contest we’ve seen countless times from Nashville. There were times where Chicago controlled play but without grabbing a lead, the Hawks played right into Barry Trotz’s blueprint for victory.
-Quenneville shortened his bench again Sunday, with five skaters (Morin, Bollig, Peter Regin, Michal Handzus and Brookbank) logging under ten minutes of ice time. Marcus Kruger was used for just 10:53. Jonathan Toews followed up 24 minutes Friday with another 23:54 Sunday night. Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp also topped 21 minutes.
-Despite the early start, this game darn near put me to sleep. A visit from Dallas awaits the Blackhawks Tuesday night.