Five Things from Game 2: Who's Blackhawks goalie now?


Five Things from Game 2: Who's Blackhawks goalie now?

NASHVILLE — Well, that didn’t go quite as planned, did it?

Coming off the relief appearance of Scott Darling’s career, the Blackhawks once again looked to No. 1 goaltender Corey Crawford for Game 2 against the Nashville Predators. It didn’t work. A close game turned into a drubbing, as the Predators peppered Crawford en route to their 6-2 victory. The series is now tied heading back to Chicago, where the Blackhawks will host the Predators in Game 3 at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Well, we all know what you want to talk about so let’s not digress any longer. Here are Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ loss to Nashville.

[MORE: Predators thump Blackhawks in Game 2, even up series]

1. Who’s the Blackhawks goaltender now? We understood the decision to stick with Crawford for Game 2. He had one bad period, and it wasn’t all him. It wasn’t completely him in Game 2, either, but he didn’t come up with the big saves when the Blackhawks had lapses. Scott Darling, who faced 42 shots in three-plus periods of relief goaltending in Game 1, did make those stops. Coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks will go with the goaltender who gives them the best chance. That may be Darling now.

2. The defense still needs to be better. Goalies are the last line of defense, no doubt, but the Blackhawks’ goalies aren’t getting much help lately. Darling said the Blackhawks played better in front of him in Game 1. Well, not entirely; he still saw 42 shots and had to come up with some spectacular saves. The Blackhawks are giving up too many shots — another 35 tonight — and worse, too many great scoring opportunities. The Predators aren’t missing them, either.

3. Ends as important as beginnings. The first period nearly ended in a tie. Instead, Roman Josi scored with 3.6 seconds remaining to give the Predators a 2-1 lead. Craig Smith scored with about five minutes left in the second period to send Nashville to another intermission with a lead, this one 3-2. As Brad Richards noted, those hurt. “We have to finish out the periods stronger,” he said. “If we go in with 1-1, 2-2 tie going into those other periods, it might be a different story.”

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4. Get Antoine Vermette in this lineup somehow. This group needs a spark of some kind for Game 3. The Blackhawks could get it from the goalie selection but shaking up the forwards may not be a bad idea, either. We get it: Vermette wasn’t great down the regular-season stretch. He wasn’t alone. Put him back in the lineup.

5. The team game, overall, needs to stabilize. Let’s look at these two games for what they are: the Blackhawks had one great period as a team — the second period of Game 1 — to go with a lot of ups and downs through these first two games. We have yet to see that complete-team game from the Blackhawks and they better find it fast. The Predators are proving they’re not going away quietly.

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

It was a rare sight to see the Blackhawks in a shootout on Wednesday night.

It was just the second time this season — and first time at the United Center — that the Blackhawks made it past 3-on-3 overtime. 

The last came on Dec. 2, 2017, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars in Dallas. On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks were on the other end, beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in a seven-round shootout. Nick Schmaltz netted the game-winner.

"We'll take it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we had a decent game tonight. Overtime not so good, I liked the shootout victory, Fors made some big saves for us particularly as the game got deeper. Our third was OK, I thought our first two were way better, and overtime we gave up some high quality, some bells were rings for a bit there. But it was nice to see the shootout win."

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, recording another multi-point game, his 16th of the season.

"I mean we need every point we can get at this point," Kane said. "There's still belief in this locker room. Obviously we need to go on quite a run and have a big record here down the stretch. But take it a game at a time and nice to get two points."

Anton Forsberg was a big reason the Blackhawks even recorded those two points. The 25-year-old netminder stopped 34 of 36 shots and made a handful of big saves down the stretch.

"It was really nice to get a win for sure," Forsberg said. "I would love to have a lot more wins, but right now just gotta look forward and get as many wins as possible."

Added Quenneville: "I think it was good for him to win a game the way he did. Lot of shots were on the line, as we progressed, got deeper, hitting the point first was big for him and for us and then finding a way to get the extra one was a good win."

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?