Predators thump Blackhawks in Game 2, even up series


Predators thump Blackhawks in Game 2, even up series

NASHVILLE — Corey Crawford’s answers were succinct, as to be expected after a dismal outing.

“Game’s over. Got to move on to the next game,” he said. “The wheels just fell off. Nothing else to say about that.”

It was supposed to be Crawford’s rebound game after getting pulled after the first period of Game 1 on Wednesday night. It was anything but that.

Crawford gave up six goals on 35 shots as the Predators exposed the Blackhawks’ goaltending and defense in a 6-2 victory in Game 2 of their first-round series. The series is tied 1-1 heading back to Chicago, where the Blackhawks will host Game 3 at 2 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.

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And now, the question coach Joel Quenneville faced heading into Game 2 resurfaces heading into Game 3: who will be your starting goaltender?

“We’ll talk about it as we go along here tonight and tomorrow,” Quenneville said. “We’ll do what gives us our best chance.”

Patrick Sharp also scored for the Blackhawks. Filip Forsberg, Smith and Mike Santorelli scored for the Predators in the third period. Colin Wilson scored his third goal of the last two games and Roman Josi also scored for Nashville.

The Blackhawks were tied 2-2 with the Predators midway through the second period, thanks to Patrick Kane’s first goal of the postseason. The Blackhawks got a break on it, as they had six men on the ice when he scored. It didn’t matter, because the tie wouldn’t last long. Nashville scored with about five minutes in the second period — Craig Smith — and scored three more times in the third to take this one handily.

“It was one of those nights, pucks were going in on him,” Quenneville said. “It was later in the game. We probably could’ve pulled him earlier but that deep in the game, we left him in there.”

[MORE: Blackhawks PGL: Who should Q start in net for Game 3?]

Yes, it wouldn’t have mattered by the time the Predators went on their barrage; they scored those final three goals in a span of 2:19. The Blackhawks were down 3-2 before that scoring spurt began, and a combination of the Predators push and Blackhawks mistakes led to it.

“For the most part we were pushing in the third, creating more. We just had some breakdowns, got odd-man rushes and gave up grade-A scoring chances trying to get back into the game. We do that often enough eventually they’re going to capitalize,” Jonathan Toews said. “Not a great finish for us but the first 10 minutes of that third we were doing what we needed to do to get back in that game. A couple of mistakes ended up hurting us.”

And on this night, there was no last line of defense.

“I started feeling good for a little bit and then just fell apart,” Crawford said. “Right now, it’s pretty frustrating. You can ask any goalie in the world and they’d answer the same thing. This game’s over though. It doesn’t mean anything anymore. Got to get ready [for the next one.]”

Will Crawford be in net for the next one? Quenneville said he will start the goaltender who gives the Blackhawks the best chance. For so many games this regular season, that was Crawford. Is he now?




Blackhawks have found magic on power play with Patrick Kane and Dominik Kubalik

Blackhawks have found magic on power play with Patrick Kane and Dominik Kubalik

The Blackhawks’ power-play struggles this season have been well-documented. 

One week ago, they hit rock bottom by slipping to dead last with a 13.8% success rate after going 0-for-17 during their five-game road swing in Western Canada. It played a major role in the Blackhawks picking up only two out of a possible 10 points on that trip. 

After trying just about every possible power-play combination to that point, head coach Jeremy Colliton experimented by positioning Dominik Kubalik in the right faceoff circle and moving Patrick Kane to the left on the first unit. And it's paid off.

In the past four games, the Blackhawks are 6-for-19 on the power play for a percentage of 31.6, which ranks No. 6 over that span. Kubalik has two of those goals while Kane has one and a couple of primary assists as well. 

After Thursday's 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in which the Blackhawks scored a season-high three power-play goals, Colliton was asked whether he regretted not putting Kubalik in that spot on the first unit sooner. In an honest admission, he didn't sugarcoat his answer.

"Yeah, and I wish we would've put Kaner on the other side earlier," Colliton told reporters. "We've tried it off and on throughout since I've been here, and we just haven't been able to get it to click with enough success for everyone to embrace it. But we've been able to here, and it's been a nice weapon for us."

No doubt the Blackhawks coaching staff discussed this possibility earlier in the season but were probably reluctant to make the switch because moving Kane out of his usual spot would have meant moving Alex DeBrincat out of his normal spot and then your two best power play weapons are playing out of their comfort zone.

But desperate times call for desperate measures, and the Blackhawks have finally found a formula that's given the power play some life.

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Brian Campbell impressed by Adam Boqvist's rookie season

Brian Campbell impressed by Adam Boqvist's rookie season


Blackhawks 2010 Stanley Cup champ Brian Campbell — currently a player development coach with Chicago — took on an active role with rookie defenseman Adam Boqvist's development. On the latest installment of "Chevy Drives", Campbell tells NBC Sports Chicago's Pat Boyle, that he likes what he sees of the 19-year-old defenseman. 

"There's definitely been a lot of strides that he's taken," Campbell said of the Blackhawks' No. 8 overall pick of the 2018 NHL Draft. Boqvist played with the Hawks' American Hockey League affiliate the Rockford IceHogs earlier this season before joining Chicago.

"The American League is a tough league to play in and I thought Adam was doing really well and kind of finding his way. A lot of times people say the American League is harder to play in than the NHL, especially for a skilled guy like Adam. Then he gets up here and you can see how well he's doing with Duncan Keith and some of the plays he's made, some of the goals he's had."

Campbell made several trips to Ontario to visit Boqvist when he was playing for the London Knights in the Ontario Hockey League after he was drafted. 

"I've been impressed," Campbell said. "I didn't think he'd be at this point already. Even seeing him, he came back down to Rockford during their break, and [I] was just kind of praising him and telling him I'm proud of him. I feel like he's kind of like a little, younger brother to me. I'm proud to see where he is now and really looking forward to seeing where he's going to go."

Boqvist impressed the rest of the organization to land in Chicgao for the majority of this season and take on big minutes and big responsibilities like quarterbacking the power play on the Hawks' top unit.

"He's a really mature kid for . . . even in London, it was like, 'Okay, how are you getting around here?' There's only so much you can do [in] hockey if you're not with that person day-to-day and allowed to go in and really kind of coach them," Campbell said. "For me, I think it was more or less, 'Okay, when are you getting your workouts in,' because as you know the NHL schedule is very busy, you got to find time to get workouts in to keep your strength in your legs or else the second half of your year, you're going to start to fall through, you won't be as strong.

"So just those little insights and talks and sometimes, you can even see it in Rockford, he'd get frustrated when he wasn't getting the puck in areas, and should he get the puck in those areas? Yeah, but I'm like, 'Don't worry, once you get playing in the NHL you're going to get pucks in those areas and you have to be ready and prepared to be effective that way.'

"There's lots of little things that you can go through, the daily routine and the daily grind. Mentally, we talked a little bit about that, being prepared. He's a kid that wants to learn and he listens and asks questions. He even asked questions about my career and that only makes you a better person when you're trying to learn more and prepare yourself to be the best you can."

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