Hawks Insider

Goaltending proves to be difference in Hawks' loss to Preds

/ by Charlie Roumeliotis
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
Hawks Insider
Arvid Soderblom

NASHVILLE — The Blackhawks were dealt a tough hand going into 2022 after having two consecutive games postponed right out of the holiday break — four if we're counting the two before that. They hadn't played a hockey game in exactly two weeks and were preparing to face a Nashville Predators team on New Year's Day that went into the contest with a 7-1-1 record over their last nine.

What made things worse? Marc-Andre Fleury and Kevin Lankinen were placed in COVID-19 protocol within five days of each other, which forced the Blackhawks to recall Collin Delia and Arvid Soderblom from the AHL. They even gave Rockford IceHogs goaltender Cale Morris an NHL contract on Friday so the team would have an insurance policy on their taxi squad.

Not surprisingly, goaltending proved to be the difference in Chicago's 6-1 rout of the Predators on Saturday at Bridgestone Arena.

Juuse Saros, who leads all goaltenders in quality starts (six) this season, according to Sportlogiq, stopped 37 of 38 shots for a save percentage of .973. He continues to be lights out against Chicago in his NHL career.

On the other end, Delia allowed three goals on seven shots in the first period before being pulled for Soderblom, who gave up three goals on 18 shots in a relief appearance for his NHL debut.

"I'll never throw a goalie under the bus," interim head coach Derek King said. "I can't fault those guys. If you looked at the scoresheet before the game they had zero NHL games, so they were coming into this building, that's tough."

 

You could make a case the Blackhawks were the better team. A pretty strong one, in fact.

The Blackhawks had 9:15 of offensive zone possession time, 71 shot attempts and 30 scoring chances, according to Natural Stat Trick. The Predators had 5:25 of offensive zone possession time, 52 shot attempts and 24 scoring chances.

"We did a lot of good things," Seth Jones said. "We had almost 40 shots on net, power play was clicking pretty good. It just didn’t want to go in tonight. We can clean up some of our defensive mistakes. Some of the grade-A chances they got, they scored, and we didn’t. Couple power-play goals for them, that's kind of the game."

On the power play, in particular, the Blackhawks had 24 shot attempts, 12 shots on goal and 11 scoring chances on four opportunities. They did everything but score.

"We were moving it pretty well," Jones said. "For the power play kind of struggling this year, that's one of the better games we had overall across four power plays."

The frustration eventually boiled over in the third period when Patrick Kane snapped his stick across the bench coming off a shift.

"They were getting frustrated," King said. "I was trying to calm them down, like you're getting good looks. A lot of times if you're not getting looks, that's when you get a little frustrated, but when you're getting good looks like that, you just gotta stay with it."

The Blackhawks are encouraged by the effort after a two-week layoff but obviously aren't satisfied with the result. The points are too valuable at this stage.

The Blackhawks will have an opportunity to get back in the win column on Sunday vs. Calgary, and they'll be in for another big test as they await the return of Fleury and Lankinen. No team has a better team save percentage than the Flames at .922, led by Jacob Markstrom.

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