The Blackhawks always judge their game on what they give up, and in that respect they were fine with their overall play on Thursday. It's what they couldn't generate on the other side that was the problem.
Pekka Rinne stopped all 29 shots he faced, and Viktor Arvidsson's great tip-in in front was all the offense the Nashville Predators needed as they took a 1-0 victory over the Blackhawks in Game 1 of their first-round series on Thursday. The Blackhawks will look to even things up on Saturday, when they host the Predators in Game 2, but as of now, the Predators have the home-ice edge.
It was the first time the Blackhawks had been shut out in a postseason game since the 2012 playoffs against the Arizona Coyotes. Rinne was good in this one, but coach Joel Quenneville wasn't happy with the quality, or lack thereof, they threw at Rinne.
"He looked all right tonight because we didn't make it tough on him," Quenneville said. "Any goalie who sees the puck as much as he did tonight (is) going to be effective. Whether we look the puck to the net ourselves or had the net presence or played goal when we're at the net, I think that's where we have to find a way to get through, hang around. That's where the rewards are."
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Artem Anisimov, who was coming off a leg injury that kept him out a month, had some of the Blackhawks' best chances near the net. His timing, something players say is the last thing to get back off an injury, was a bit off.
The Blackhawks actually came out shooting to start the first, but that soon disappeared. For nearly 14 minutes of the first period, they had no shots. In between the Predators took a 1-0 lead, with Arvidsson tipping in Filip Forsberg's shot at 7:52 of the first. The Blackhawks had a chance to clear, but their forwards collided and the Predators produced off it.
"I think it was three forwards looking at each other to see who was going to grab the puck, (Ryan) Johansen came in and made a play, kept it alive," Jonathan Toews said. "Maybe all five of us got caught watching. We can't be standing around. Someone has to step up and make the simple plays, even if it's whacking it out of our zone. Try to kill plays like that before anything develops."
The Blackhawks outshot the Predators 23-9 in the final 40 minutes. It was certainly better than their too-quiet first, but when Rinne didn't make the stops, his teammates in front of him did. The Predators blocked 26 shots on Thursday.
"I think they out-battled us a little bit today, that's why we couldn't get into those dangerous areas in front of their goalie. They were battling extremely hard in their own end," Niklas Hjalmarsson said. "We had the puck most of the game and I thought we played decent, but it's not good enough. I think the intensity level has to go up a couple of levels, and we've got to find a way to score goals. They played really well defensively, but at the same time we have to find a way to score."
As Quenneville said, Game 1 wasn't terrible. It wasn't aggressive enough, either. The Blackhawks know how to beat Rinne, how to beat any goaltender at this level. They just didn't do it.
"We've got to be better across the board. We need everybody going," Quenneville said. "Obviously starting a little late tonight didn't help. More desperation around the net and that willingness to get there and fight through it, pay a price, whatever's there."