Nashville Predators

Five takeaways from Blackhawks 3-2 loss to Predators: Solid outing for Anton Forsberg

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Five takeaways from Blackhawks 3-2 loss to Predators: Solid outing for Anton Forsberg

The Blackhawks have played well as of late but against the Nashville Predators, you better be close to perfect. They weren’t, so they left sans two points. Still, it wasn’t a bad outing.

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks’ 3-2 loss on Tuesday night:

1. Second-period swing.

The first period wasn’t a bad one for the Blackhawks. But Duncan Keith took an unsportsmanlike conduct at the end of it, and while the Predators didn’t score on the power play that opened the second period they swung momentum their way. The Predators outplayed the Blackhawks and took a 2-1 lead.

2. Tough night for Panik.

Much like some of his teammates, Richard Panik has dealt with a scoring slump. While other teammates have broken out of their doldrums, Panik is still struggling. He looked to be fighting the puck that much more on Tuesday.

3. Solid outing for Anton Forsberg.

You can debate who should’ve started which back-to-back game. Coach Joel Quenneville opted for Corey Crawford against the Anaheim Ducks on Monday before starting Forsberg against the Predators.

Despite the Blackhawks loss, it’s hard to hang this on Forsberg. He had a good performance, stopping 28 of 31. Said Quenneville, “tough one at the end, hitting off us (Roman Josi’s goal going off Brent Seabrook’s stick), and it was a big goal. But he made some key saves all alone on broken plays, made some key saves to give us a chance to stay in the game.”

4. Pekka Rinne vs. Patrick Kane.

The Predators goaltender got the edge in this matchup. Kane had some outstanding chances against Rinne, especially early when Rinne stopped Kane on successive opportunities. Rinne would stop 37 of 39 in the victory.

5. Fourth line chances.

Lance Bouma brought the Blackhawks within one goal midway through the third period. Tommy Wingels, who had the team’s opening goal, had a chance to tie the game in the waning seconds. The trio of Bouma, Wingels and John Hayden has been solid and has brought a little offense, and was rewarded with late play. Said Bouma, “we were feeling it tonight. A couple of great chances. It was nice to get out there to try and get more.”

Blackhawks continue trending in right direction, but can't complete comeback vs. Predators

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Blackhawks continue trending in right direction, but can't complete comeback vs. Predators

For the Blackhawks on Tuesday, it was a mix. A good start, a so-so middle and not enough at the end. Against a red-hot Nashville Predators team and on the second half of a back-to-back, the Blackhawks could take some good out of their 3-2 loss.

Some.

“For the most part we played a pretty good road game. That being said the only thing that matters is the two points,” Tommy Wingels said. “While we’re happy with some aspects, we didn’t come away with the two points.”

Considering some of their squandered opportunities earlier this season, the Blackhawks are certainly looking for two points every chance they can get them. But Tuesday’s game wasn’t some lopsided mess. It wasn’t the dismal failure of last April. It was a close game in which Pekka Rinne stymied the Blackhawks just enough (especially Patrick Kane early).

Not that some issues couldn’t have been avoided. The Blackhawks went through their second-period swoon again and by the start of the third period they were down 3-1 to a Predators team that was 8-1-1 at Bridgestone Arena entering Tuesday’s game. The Blackhawks know from history, especially recent history, that the Predators will take advantage of any hiccup.

“Great start, second period we slowed down a bit and tried to come back being down two,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We had a couple of looks there at the end but they’re a good hockey team. You can’t have a lull in the game and you gotta keep the pace up.”

Anton Forsberg had a solid outing, stopping 28 of 31 in the loss. He was beaten cleanly early (Filip Forsberg’s game-opening goal). Austin Watson’s go-ahead 2-1 goal got another look when Quenneville challenged for goaltender interference, but officials ruled it was incidental contact.

“I didn’t understand how it went in, because it was going wide. I reached my arm over there. I asked the ref afterward and he said that my arm was outside and if it had been inside and he would’ve had contact with me, it would be no goal,” Forsberg said. “But my arm was outside. That’s what happened.”

Roman Josi’s game winner went off Brent Seabrook’s stick and past Forsberg.

The Blackhawks have been playing a lot better as of late. They’re producing again. They’re getting solid goaltending. They’re doing a lot of things right. But as they were reminded on Tuesday, having lulls against a surging team can still be costly.

“I think we got away from our game a little bit in the second period. They outshot us, out chanced us. For whatever reason we were on our heels but other than that it was a good effort,” Wingels said. “It’s a tough team, a tough building to play in. We wish we would’ve done better.”

New lines, same result: Blackhawks offense still struggling

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New lines, same result: Blackhawks offense still struggling

The Blackhawks have been going through a lot of changes lately. Changes in their line combinations, changes in their defensive pairings, changes in their power-play personnel. The true measure of those changes will be felt when the Blackhawks start seeing results from them. As of now, they really haven’t.

There’s no lack of firepower with this team; there hasn’t been for some time. You look at the roster and figure it’s only a matter of time before the goals start coming but for the last while, they haven’t. In their last seven games, including Friday night’s 2-1 loss to the Nashville Predators, the Blackhawks have just 14 goals. They’ve had two or fewer goals in six of those contests.

Despite the changes, despite the shots – of which they had 43 on Friday – the results haven’t been there. A paltry power play hasn’t helped.

“We scored a short-handed goal, so it was nice to get that one. But it would’ve been nice to get something 5-on-5,” Patrick Kane said. “We slowed down in the second but we started coming on in the third again, too. Usually when you play that way you’re going to end up with a couple of goals. We’ll try to stay with it here and hopefully it comes.”

It’s been another week of tinkering for the Blackhawks, this time with the lines. There were glimpses that this mix could work but the only thing that came out of their first 20 minutes on Friday was Artem Anisimov’s short-handed goal.

“We tried to mix it up a little bit and thought instantly we had really good pace to it. Obviously we’re in the finished product evaluation, so we’ll keep trying to find ways. Be it off the rush, in zone, off the defensemen, getting activated, there’s still room in that area to grow,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “The power play could’ve ignited [the offense], could’ve helped it. We’ll keep pushing but there are a lot of positives here to move forward.”

The positives you take but as Quenneville said, the results are necessary. A lot of shots, better puck possession and zone time (at least for a while on Friday) but the quest for goals has still been tough. The Blackhawks have had plenty of firepower for a while now. Jump-starting it lately has been problematic.

“When you put up 40-plus shots you’re probably doing something right,” Kane said. “I think more times than not we could probably have more traffic in front. But that’s something we’re trying to stress here, too. Hopefully we can make it harder the next time we do."