Blackhawks

Four takeaways: Blackhawks turn in complete effort, wrap up homestand with win

Four takeaways: Blackhawks turn in complete effort, wrap up homestand with win

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 2-1 win over the Nashville Predators at the United Center on Sunday:

1. The Full 60

The Blackhawks have been preaching playing a full 60 minutes ever since Jeremy Colliton took over as head coach. Heck, even before then. And they turned in arguably their most complete effort under their new head coach against a Predators team that came in tied for second in the NHL with 46 points.

Even more impressive, the Blackhawks shut the door in the final 40:33 and gave up one or fewer goals for the first time since Nov. 18 in a 3-1 victory over Minnesota — a span of 15 games. Cam Ward was a big reason for that, stopping 30 of 31 shots for a save percentage of .968 to pick up his first win in almost a month.

It was a well-deserved win for the Blackhawks, who earned five out of a possible eight points during their four-game homestand.

"I thought our guys competed and worked really hard all 60 minutes," Ward said. "Defensively we didn’t give them a whole lot and it’s a credit to the guys for the way that they played. We kept it much more simple and executed and, to be quite honest, we could have had more goals if it wasn’t for [Pekka] Rinne. He made some big saves and it was tight right till the end."

2. Contributions from the back end

With Henri Jokiharju being loaned to Finland for the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship, a void opened up on the Blackhawks blue line. But with that comes opportunity for others.

Gustav Forsling, who returned after missing six games with a shoulder injury, scored his second of the season to put the Blackhawks on the board at the 15:22 mark of the second period. And 1:54 later, Erik Gustafsson made it 2-1 when he scored 17 seconds into a power play.

Despite deserving better fate in the first period, the Blackhawks stayed with it and responded with two goals and outshot the Predators 16-7 in the middle frame to hand Nashville its first loss of the season when leading after one period (10-1-0).

"We always want to score," Forsling said. "But I think the most important thing is not to get scored on and we did a good job at that too."

3. A strong start spoiled

The last time the Blackhawks clashed with the Predators, they allowed three goals in the first 4:11. It wasn't great.

Perhaps motivated by revenge, the Blackhawks were ready to play from the moment the puck dropped this time around, outshooting the Predators 12-11 and generating 13 scoring chances, according to naturalstattrick.com, in the opening frame. But the Predators spoiled their good start when Kevin Fiala scored with 32.2 seconds left.

It's the 15th straight game the Blackhawks allowed a first-period goal, although this is one they can't get too worked up about.

'"We talked about it before: we've got to be ready," Gustafsson said. "Nashville's a great team. We know they're going to come out hard. Right from the start, we battled hard, we stuck together as a team and when we [got] tired, we stuck together in front of [Ward]. It was a team win tonight."

4. Alex DeBrincat is in good company

The Blackhawks celebrated a birthday on Tuesday, with DeBrincat turning 21 years of age. It's weird to think he's only 21, but at the same time it feels like he's been around for a while now and has become part of the core. 

There are only six players in Blackhawks history who have scored more goals than him before turning 21: 
— Eddie Olczyk (65 in 228 games)
— Jeremy Roenick (58 in 146 games)
— Jonathan Toews (58 in 146 games)
— Bobby Hull (55 in 177 games)
— Denis Savard (54 in 129 games)
— Patrick Kane (53 in 181 games)

Of those seven players, DeBrincat ranks fourth in goals-per-game (.362). And the best is yet to come.

"It's a nice weapon to have in your lineup," Colliton said. "He's probably exceeded expectations that people had for him when he first came to training camp a year and a half ago. But there's no reason why he can't keep getting better."

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Four takeaways: Blackhawks return favor, rout Predators

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USA TODAY

Four takeaways: Blackhawks return favor, rout Predators

NASHVILLE — Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 7-2 win over the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday:

1. Revenge

The last time the Blackhawks and Predators met, it resulted in one of the most lopsided scoresheets you'll ever see. The Predators dominated in shot attempts (87-41), shots on goal (51-20), scoring chances (42-14) and high-danger chances (16-3), according to Natural Stat Trick, en route to a 3-0 victory less than three weeks ago.

While the Predators led in most of the underlying categories on Saturday, the Blackhawks got their revenge on the scoreboard.

With the win, the Blackhawks improved to 4-0-1 in their past five games and moved above a .500 points percentage for the first time all season. They've scored 24 goals in their last five games after scoring only 33 in their first 14.

2. Blackhawks chase Pekka Rinne

Rinne was lights out for the Predators in his first eight starts of the season. He was 7-0-1 with a 1.74 goals-against average, .937 save percentage and two shutouts.

Since calling the 20-save shutout against the Blackhawks on Oct. 29 "one of the for-sure easier" ones of his NHL career, Rinne is 1-3-1 and has given up 20 goals on 112 shots for a save percentage of .821 over his last five starts.

Against the Blackhawks, Rinne gave up four goals on 14 shots for a save percentage of .714 before being pulled for Juuse Saros in the second period. And the Blackhawks bench let him hear it as he skated off.

Robin Lehner was terrific yet again for the Blackhawks. He stopped 39 of 41 shots for a save percentage of .951.

3. Weathering the storm

Head coach Jeremy Colliton said the morning of their last game against Nashville that the Blackhawks would likely need to weather the storm in the first 10 minutes because the Predators always start strong in their own building. They didn't and were never able to tilt the ice.

The Blackhawks did on Saturday night, though.

After giving up the first six shots on goal, the Blackhawks outshot the Predators 9-6 the rest of the first period and scored the first two goals for the fourth time in five games. It's exactly what the Blackhawks were hoping to do, and it turned the momentum quickly after the Predators dictated the pace of play to start.

4. Contributions from defensemen

The Blackhawks haven't gotten much offensive contribution from the back end this season. They had only three goals from their defensemen in the first 17 games (Adam Boqvist, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook).

But with Calvin de Haan finding the back of the net in Vegas, Erik Gustafsson scoring a goal in back-to-back games after a 16-game scoring drought and Seabrook netting his second of the season, the Blackhawks have gotten four goals from their defensemen in the past two games. It helps take the pressure off the forwards when everybody is chipping in on offense.

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Blackhawks hungry for revenge against Predators after 'embarrassing' loss in previous meeting

Blackhawks hungry for revenge against Predators after 'embarrassing' loss in previous meeting

NASHVILLE  — After missing 11 games with a groin injury, Connor Murphy has been cleared to return Saturday night when the Blackhawks take on the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena.

The Blackhawks were 4-5-2 in Murphy’s absence and one of those games included a 3-0 loss to the Predators on Oct. 29, which was a one-sided contest from start to finish. Nick Bonino had a hat trick and the Blackhawks were outshot 51-20.

Since then, the Blackhawks have picked up 10 out of a possible 14 points and made a schematic change that has opened up the offense. They're playing with a lot more jump and the Blackhawks are hoping it translates to a more competitive game.

"It's a good challenge for us," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "We were not very good that game. We didn't give ourselves a chance. We got a lot more confidence now and now we got to show where we're at. Doesn't mean we're going to win the game but we need to perform better."

Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne called the previous matchup "one of the for-sure easier shutouts" of his NHL career. He has given up 16 goals over his last four starts since blanking the Blackhawks after allowing only 14 goals in his first eight appearances.

The Blackhawks are fully aware of Rinne’s comments and they're looking for revenge this time around against a Predators team that has lost five of their last six games, including three in a row (0-2-1).

"We know what he said, so take it any way you want and be ready to play tonight," Patrick Kane said. "Obviously the way we played last time in here wasn't acceptable and pretty embarrassing loss, so there's some truth to those comments. We've got to come back and respond."

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