'The hardest game': Blackhawks look to finish Predators


'The hardest game': Blackhawks look to finish Predators

The Blackhawks were a tired but happy group on Tuesday night — make that Wednesday morning — taking a 3-2 triple-overtime victory over the Nashville Predators and a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

This series hasn’t been an easy one, for sure. Now comes the really difficult part: closing out the Predators for good.

“Always, the hardest game is to close out a team,” Brad Richards said. “Every day it’s the same: it’s the biggest game of the year and it’s going to be the toughest test of the year. As tough as last night was to win, it’s probably going to be a lot tougher tomorrow to win, especially in their building.”

[MORE: Predators 'will not go away quietly' after Game 4 loss]

The Predators will be like a cornered animal on Thursday night: they’re going to scratch, claw and do everything they can to keep this series going. As Richards said, the Blackhawks need to match that desperation because the last thing they want to do is give the Predators a second wind.

“You have to get better each game. You can’t think how you played the last game is going to be good enough to be successful the next one. That has to be our message,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Nashville’s played hard every single night, that’s how close it’s been. And we expect another battle right from the outset. We’ll need everyone and we’ll need our best.”

The Blackhawks are usually good at closing series out when they have the opportunity. With two contests going multiple overtimes, even getting to this point hasn’t been easy. The Predators have been without forward Mike Fisher for all four games and defenseman Shea Weber for the last two-plus contests, yet they’ve been right there. They’ll be desperate to keep this going. Jonathan Toews also said the Blackhawks need to match that emotion.

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“We can try and find that desperation where we can put ourselves in their position, where these games are as important for us as they are for them, knowing that if we don’t find ways to finish this series off that it’s going to get tougher and tougher for us and more and more pressure will be on us as well,” he said. “Not that we want to add any pressure, but I just think we need to have that urgency that tomorrow needs to be our best game of the series.”

The Blackhawks don’t want this series going any longer than necessary. It’s already been lengthy, with Game 1 going double overtime and Game 3 triple overtime. They’ve got the chance to close. They want to capitalize on it.

“It’s going to be a tough game to play,” Duncan Keith said. “We know their crowd is going to be into it and they’re going to be pumped up to play in front of their crowd now. We’ve been in these situations before, going on the road and trying to close it out, and we’ll try to use that experience a little bit. At the same time, [it’s] just focusing on having a good start and then going one shift at a time like we’ve done throughout this series.”

4 Takeaways: Blackhawks power up but fall in high-scoring affair to Blues

USA Today

4 Takeaways: Blackhawks power up but fall in high-scoring affair to Blues

The Blackhawks scored three power-play goals, but lost 6-5 to the defending Stanley Cup champion Blues in St. Louis on Tuesday. Here are four takeaways: 

Crow's net

After trading goalie Robin Lehner to Vegas ahead of Monday's trade deadline, Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said Crawford will be the team's lone starter the rest of the year, likely with Malcolm Subban (return from Lehner trade) backing him up.  

After a rough start to the game, allowing the Blues to draw first blood, Crawford made some big saves in the first period to keep the Hawks in it and allow them to answer back. 

Hawks defenseman Connor Murphy was tagged with a tripping penalty 11 seconds into the game that produced a Brayden Schenn power-play goal 33 seconds into the contest, which had Chicago trailing 1-0 early. 

Murphy later redeemed himself by scoring off a wrist shot at 14:09 of the first to give the Hawks a 2-1 lead. 

After a six-goal third period, Crawford finished the game with 31 saves on 37 shots. His performance wasn't indicative of the score. The Hawks defense had a rough game and the penalty kill went 2-for-4. 

100 for Duncs

Duncan Keith scored on a Blackhawks power play at 10:55 of the first period. 

He became the 100th defenseman in NHL history to score 100 goals. Keith joins Bob Murray, Doug Wilson and Brent Seabrook as the only defensemen to reach the milestone with the Blackhawks.

He later added two assists in the game.  

The two-time Norris Trophy winner recorded his 500th assist in Wednesday's 6-3 loss against the New York Rangers. Keith is the 40th defenseman in NHL history to reach 600+ points. 

RELATED - Duncan Keith reaching elite career milestones this season


With Keith's marker, the Hawks picked up a power-play goal in three straight games. They were 0-for-17 on the man advantage in their previous six.

Patrick Kane added another power-play goal for the Hawks, scoring 1:13 into the second period. Brandon Saad scored the Blackhawks' third power play of the game at 8:16 of the third to put Chicago ahead 5-4. 

The Hawks only had three power-play goals in the entire month of February before Tuesday. It was only the second game this season in which Chicago had at least two power-play goals. The other was against Vancouver on Nov. 7 in a 5-2 win in which they scored two. 

D breakdowns

Like the majority of the time the Blackhawks have been scored on this season, a couple of the Blues' goals on Tuesday were a result of defensive breakdowns. In the third period, St. Louis scored two even-strength goals in 16 seconds. 

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Robin Lehner opens up on getting traded by Blackhawks

Robin Lehner opens up on getting traded by Blackhawks

Las Vegas media met Robin Lehner for the first time on Tuesday following the Golden Knight's practice.

In a complicated transaction, Lehner was first traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for winger Martins Dzierkals, a 22-year-old unsigned draft pick. Lehner and Dzierkals were then traded to Vegas, getting the Blackhawks goaltender Malcolm Subban, defenseman prospect Slava Demin and Vegas' second-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.

The 2019 Vezina Trophy finalist, who was 16-10-5 as a Hawk this season with a 3.01 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage, was refreshingly honest with the Chicago media on a daily basis. 

The 28-year-old was a little more soft-spoken in Vegas on Tuesday, but had plenty to say on the trade and his time in Chicago. 

Similar to his Windy City tenure with Corey Crawford, Lehner will likely be splitting time in net with another No. 1 goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury.

"I just got here," Lehner said when asked about his role with the team. "I had a couple talks with [head coach Pete DeBoer]. I'm just here whenever they need me, to do the best I can. Try to be ready and try to just help the team win when I get the chance."

Aside from Crawford, Lehner has had additional experience sharing the net with other great goalies.

"I played with good goalies my whole career, ever since my Ottawa days with (Ben) Bishop and Craig Anderson, Brian Elliott . . . it's no different," Lehner said. "I'm coming in here to do my best and [ trying] to help the team win. 

"Marc-Andre is obviously one of the best goalies in the league and he's been for his whole career, very impressive career. I got to spend time with Corey Crawford this year, which was great and get to finish out the year with Marc and it's a good opportunity for me." 

Sin City's newest goalie was a bit surprised Vegas got him ahead of the deadline. 

"I definitely was," Lehner said. "We were hearing from a few teams and Vegas came out of nowhere. I was a little shocked but really excited, pleasantly surprised. Hell of a team in here and fun to join a team that has a chance to win the Cup." 

The netminder had mixed feelings when asked if he was surprised to be traded by Chicago. 

"Yes and no," Lehner said. "[If you] asked me a few weeks ago, no. I had high hopes, but nothing happened. Never got an offer of anything, so I figured last few days that's probably going to be the case."

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