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.
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.”
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.