Second straight shutout loss drops Blackhawks in 2-0 series hole vs. Predators

Second straight shutout loss drops Blackhawks in 2-0 series hole vs. Predators

Zip. Zilch. Nada. Nothing.

The Blackhawks didn't get anything in Game 1 against Nashville, but that game was at least palatable. They didn't do a lot, but they didn't give up a lot, either. But in Game 2, with the Predators upping their game, the Blackhawks didn't match. They didn't even come close. And now they're facing one hell of a first-round series hole.

Ryan Ellis scored what would be the game-winning goal in the first period and Pekka Rinne got his second shutout in as many games with 30 stops as the Predators beat the Blackhawks 5-0 on Saturday night. The Predators, who looked as strong as the Blackhawks looked frustrated, take a 2-0 lead back to Nashville for Games 3 and 4 on Monday and Thursday, respectively.

The Blackhawks could take positives out of Game 1. This one? Not so much. It's the second time in franchise history the Blackhawks were shut out in their first two postseason games. The last time it happened was back in 1935.

"That was frustration to a different level. That wasn't fun to watch. Across the board, not too many positives came out of tonight's game," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Everybody was responsible, from the coaches down to every single player. We need to get out of this mess and hole. We can play much better than that in all areas, in all aspects. We're a better hockey team than we showed tonight."

Unlike in Game 1, when the Predators seemed content to go into full defense mode after taking a 1-0 lead, they took more initiative on Saturday. The Blackhawks' frustration level grew as the game wore on. Jonathan Toews had five shots on goal, but he and Patrick Kane (four shots) couldn't punch anything through. The two, who were on the same line by the third period, have just one playoff goal combined since the start of the 2016 postseason.

"For sure. It always is," Toews said about the pressure being on he and other top guys. "But I think everyone in this room will take it upon themselves to try to make a difference and try to get our team going with the first goal of the series. I didn't think you'd be saying that three games into the series, but I think we all add a little bit more on ourselves to try and find a way. But again, it's collectively as a team, those little details that'll add up that will translate into those scoring chances that we're looking for."

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On Saturday nothing the Blackhawks did, from line changes to defensive pair changes — prior to the game or in it — worked. Meanwhile the opportunistic Predators fired at every opportunity, coming at the Blackhawks in waves.

Ellis' goal came just after Richard Panik blocked his previous attempt, with Viktor Arvidsson setting the screen in front. In the second period Harry Zolnierczyk, during a bad Blackhawks line change, got separated just enough to beat Corey Crawford for a 2-0 lead. Then Colton Sissons, after Crawford had stopped two previous shots, came in to score for a 3-0 lead 13 minutes into the second.

The Blackhawks had their strongest push in the third period, but they still couldn't capitalize on any opportunities. Meanwhile, Ryan Johansen added his first of the postseason with 6:11 remaining in regulation. Kevin Fiala scored at 18:13 to cap the Predators' scoring.

"It's not good enough, and we have to find a way to beat the neutral zone. That's the No. 1 thing. And be more desperate around the net," Marian Hossa said. "Pretty much, most chances are one and done. I think we can create more than we're showing, and we have to be way better around their goalie."

The Blackhawks have to regroup fast. They had a great road record this regular season, but they'll be facing a Predators team that's up 2-0 and brimming with confidence. This was already looking like a tough series before it started. It's now going to be that much more difficult for the Blackhawks to get back in it.

"One shift at a time. That's how desperate is has to be. A gigantic hole," Quenneville said. "It's going to be a loud building (in Nashville). We have to chip away. We need a goal to start to get the momentum back on our side. Giving up another early goal again tonight didn't help, but baby steps. Be angry."

How will the Blackhawks utilize Kirby Dach?

Detroit Red Wings

How will the Blackhawks utilize Kirby Dach?

The Blackhawks recalled No. 3 overall pick Kirby Dach from his AHL conditioning stint on Friday night after he appeared in three games with the Rockford IceHogs. He missed the first week of training camp with a concussion and the organization wanted him to get a taste of the pro action and back up to speed after not playing in any preseason games, either.

"I enjoyed the experience there," Dach said. "I had a lot of fun. Got to see a couple buddies. It was good for me to get down there and get some pro games under my belt and just feel what the pace is going to be like. It'll be another step up here, but I feel good and I feel like I'm ready to go."

Whether Dach makes his NHL debut on Sunday against the Washington Capitals won't be revealed by head coach Jeremy Colliton until after morning skate on Sunday. But where does he fit into the lineup going forward?

The Blackhawks are 2-0-1 in their past three games and aren't necessarily looking to shake up their rotation, even though they're still searching for consistency on all four lines.

The easy answer is for Dach to slide into a third-line center role behind Jonathan Toews and Dylan Strome, but the trio of David Kampf, Dominik Kubalik and Brandon Saad has undoubtedly been the most consistent for the Blackhawks this season. And we saw in the home opener what happened when they were separated. 

The Blackhawks held an optional practice on Saturday morning and didn't run through line rushes, but before Dach was assigned to Rockford, he took several spins on the first line with Toews and alternated with Drake Caggiula and Alex DeBrincat. It's possible Dach starts on the wing, where he can play top-six minutes and not have as much responsibility as a center would.

"I've played wing in previous years, so it's not something that's new to me," Dach said. "At the same time I'm open-minded to just getting into the lineup and helping the team win."

The Blackhawks can give Dach up to nine NHL games before deciding whether they want to burn the first year of his entry-level contract or send him back to the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL.

"As a kid you always grow up dreaming of playing in the NHL, so there'll be nerves," Dach said. "But there will also be a lot of excitement. I've just got to do my best to focus on my game and be ready to play whenever my name's called upon by the coaching staff."

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Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks scratch out a win and Kirby Dach recalled

USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks scratch out a win and Kirby Dach recalled

Pat Boyle and Charlie Roumeliotis welcome Nick Gismondi into the fold before discussing Friday's win over Columbus. Robin Lehner played stellar and is forming quite a tandem in net with Corey Crawford (4:10), while the DeBrincat/Kane connection is alive and well (6:10), and the Blackhawks' struggles at even strength continued (12:10). Then, the guys react to the breaking news of Kirby Dach's recall from Rockford and discuss where he might fit into this lineup (15:10).

Listen to the entire episode here or in the embedded player below.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast


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