Nashville Predators

Four takeaways: Blackhawks claw back but come up short in overtime loss to Predators

Four takeaways: Blackhawks claw back but come up short in overtime loss to Predators

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-3 overtime loss to the Nashville Predators at the United Center on Wednesday:

1. Clawing back but falling short

Despite falling behind 3-1, the Blackhawks fought back like they often have this season and forced overtime.

Jonathan Toews scored a crucial shorthanded goal with 20 seconds left in the second period, giving the Blackhawks a lift going into the third period. Artem Anisimov potted the equalizer with 2:21 left in regulation thanks to a great feed by Patrick Kane, who finished with two assists for his fifth multi-point outing in seven games.

But the Predators finished the job in overtime when Filip Forsberg, fresh off a line change, took advantage of three tired Chicago defenders to score his second of the night exactly one minute into it.

The Blackhawks have picked up at least a point in 10 of their last 14 games, and haved played well against two of the best Western Conference teams (Calgary and Nashville) and hottest Eastern Conference team (Pittsburgh) in their past three contests.

"We expect even more out of ourselves," Toews said. "We’re playing well, we’re in games. When you get to overtime, we have that feeling that we can get the two points. It’s unfortunate we haven’t gotten it done in our building. We want to get that energy and get that crowd into it and give them something. Just falling short a few times here and there, but overall our team game’s been getting better. For us, we know the expectation’s even higher. We can go for those two points every night.”

2. Falling into old trap?

For the third straight game, the Blackhawks allowed the first goal after they had scored the first one in the previous seven games. It was a good run and a much-needed one too after the Blackhawks went through a tough stretch in November where they gave up the first goal in 11 straight.

But now they have to make sure not to fall into that same trap. Colton Sissons scored first, the Blackhawks eventually responded towards the end of the first period, but the Predators answered right back eight seconds later. The Blackhawks also gave up 17 shots in the opening frame, their third-highest of the season.

Erik Gustafsson, who was on the ice for the first goal and overtime winner for Nashville, was self-critical about his performance and the role he played in those two goals against.

"For myself, I felt I was terrible today," he said. "But the team played well. I think that we can be better in our zone. But for 60 minutes I think we played well."

3. Power play stays hot

The Blackhawks power play is on an absolute roll right now. They've been near the basement of the NHL for a large portion of the first half in that department, but have quickly found themselves flirting with the middle of the pack after their recent hot stretch.

With another power play goal — by Alex DeBrincat, who extended his goal streak to three games — against the Predators, the Blackhawks are now 10-for-29 (34.5 percent) in their last 10 games with the man advantage. They were 13-for-108 (12.0 percent) in their first 36 games of the season.

It's come a long way.

"Obviously [DeBrincat's] been finishing his chances on the power play, which is nice to see," Toews said. "When we’ve got a guy that can shoot like that, a guy that can pass like [Kane], we just have a lot of good things going for our power play right now.”

4. New top line

The Blackhawks made some changes going into Wednesday's game. DeBrincat was promoted to the top line with Dominik Kahun and Toews while Brandon Saad was moved to the third line with Drake Caggiula and David Kampf.

It was time for DeBrincat to get more ice time because he deserves it. He logged 17:01 of ice time, his second-highest since Dec. 16, scored a goal on the power play and recorded a team-high seven shots on goal in the loss.

"I thought we played well," DeBrincat said. "Can definitely be better. Made a few plays, probably could have scored a few more times. There's always room for improvement."

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Four takeaways: Blackhawks turn in complete effort, wrap up homestand with win

Four takeaways: Blackhawks turn in complete effort, wrap up homestand with win

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 2-1 win over the Nashville Predators at the United Center on Sunday:

1. The Full 60

The Blackhawks have been preaching playing a full 60 minutes ever since Jeremy Colliton took over as head coach. Heck, even before then. And they turned in arguably their most complete effort under their new head coach against a Predators team that came in tied for second in the NHL with 46 points.

Even more impressive, the Blackhawks shut the door in the final 40:33 and gave up one or fewer goals for the first time since Nov. 18 in a 3-1 victory over Minnesota — a span of 15 games. Cam Ward was a big reason for that, stopping 30 of 31 shots for a save percentage of .968 to pick up his first win in almost a month.

It was a well-deserved win for the Blackhawks, who earned five out of a possible eight points during their four-game homestand.

"I thought our guys competed and worked really hard all 60 minutes," Ward said. "Defensively we didn’t give them a whole lot and it’s a credit to the guys for the way that they played. We kept it much more simple and executed and, to be quite honest, we could have had more goals if it wasn’t for [Pekka] Rinne. He made some big saves and it was tight right till the end."

2. Contributions from the back end

With Henri Jokiharju being loaned to Finland for the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship, a void opened up on the Blackhawks blue line. But with that comes opportunity for others.

Gustav Forsling, who returned after missing six games with a shoulder injury, scored his second of the season to put the Blackhawks on the board at the 15:22 mark of the second period. And 1:54 later, Erik Gustafsson made it 2-1 when he scored 17 seconds into a power play.

Despite deserving better fate in the first period, the Blackhawks stayed with it and responded with two goals and outshot the Predators 16-7 in the middle frame to hand Nashville its first loss of the season when leading after one period (10-1-0).

"We always want to score," Forsling said. "But I think the most important thing is not to get scored on and we did a good job at that too."

3. A strong start spoiled

The last time the Blackhawks clashed with the Predators, they allowed three goals in the first 4:11. It wasn't great.

Perhaps motivated by revenge, the Blackhawks were ready to play from the moment the puck dropped this time around, outshooting the Predators 12-11 and generating 13 scoring chances, according to naturalstattrick.com, in the opening frame. But the Predators spoiled their good start when Kevin Fiala scored with 32.2 seconds left.

It's the 15th straight game the Blackhawks allowed a first-period goal, although this is one they can't get too worked up about.

'"We talked about it before: we've got to be ready," Gustafsson said. "Nashville's a great team. We know they're going to come out hard. Right from the start, we battled hard, we stuck together as a team and when we [got] tired, we stuck together in front of [Ward]. It was a team win tonight."

4. Alex DeBrincat is in good company

The Blackhawks celebrated a birthday on Tuesday, with DeBrincat turning 21 years of age. It's weird to think he's only 21, but at the same time it feels like he's been around for a while now and has become part of the core. 

There are only six players in Blackhawks history who have scored more goals than him before turning 21: 
— Eddie Olczyk (65 in 228 games)
— Jeremy Roenick (58 in 146 games)
— Jonathan Toews (58 in 146 games)
— Bobby Hull (55 in 177 games)
— Denis Savard (54 in 129 games)
— Patrick Kane (53 in 181 games)

Of those seven players, DeBrincat ranks fourth in goals-per-game (.362). And the best is yet to come.

"It's a nice weapon to have in your lineup," Colliton said. "He's probably exceeded expectations that people had for him when he first came to training camp a year and a half ago. But there's no reason why he can't keep getting better."

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Four takeaways: Frustration boils over in Blackhawks loss to Predators

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AP

Four takeaways: Frustration boils over in Blackhawks loss to Predators

NASHVILLE — Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 5-2 loss to the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday:

1. A forgettable start

For the sixth straight game, the Blackhawks allowed the first goal — at the 2:11 mark. And it didn't stop there. The Predators scored two more, minutes later within a 39-second span to go up 3-0 in only 4:11 of action. 

What made it even more difficult to swallow is that the Predators were without several key offensive players, including their leading scorer in Filip Forsberg. The Blackhawks had an opportunity to take advantage of a depleted Nashville team, but the Predators came out hungrier after getting shut out two nights before and it showed. The Predators lead the NHL with 14 wins when scoring first.

"I feel like we’re talking about it, we’re aware, we’re trying to have better starts," Jonathan Toews said. "I don’t know how to explain that one tonight. I don’t know if it’s lack of effort again or if it’s just mistakes that we can’t be making, but we seem to correct the course the rest of the game. I think it’s a bunch of different things. So we’re trying to figure it out and continue to try our best to have better starts. It’s clearly what’s hurting us lately."

2. Frustration boils over for Duncan Keith

After falling behind 3-0, frustration really boiled over for the Blackhawks. 

Mikka Salomaki delivered a big hit on Keith, who didn't like it and chaos ensued. To sum it up, Keith racked up 29 penalty minutes (roughing, instigator, fighting, misconduct and game misconduct) while Alex DeBrincat also compiled seven penalty minutes (five for fighting and two for roughing) by coming to the defense of his teammate.

Nobody takes losses harder than Keith, who has been ejected twice this season. But in this case, it was evident that it was built-up frustration and he took it out on the Predators, showing saw raw emotion that the Blackhawks need.

"I just thought it was a little bit from behind," Keith said. "I didn't see the hit coming. It didn't hurt, but at the end of the day we're down 3-0 not even five minutes into the game. Enough's enough.

"At some point, some sort of response was needed. Nice to see DeBrincat get in there; I don't expect that but I'll remember that."

3. Seven-minute kill

After sorting out the messy scuffle, the Predators were awarded a seven-minute power play and even had a 5-on-3 opportunity in the middle of it. It had the potential to turn into a disaster for the Blackhawks, who were already trailing 3-0 and would have to kill it off without one of their best defenders in Keith.

Ironically, it was the Blackhawks that capitalized first when Brandon Saad made a sensational one-man effort by muscling his way past a Predators defender and crashing hard to the net for a shorthanded goal to make it 3-1. It didn't last long, as the Predators got it back 1:15 later which ended the power play. But the response, in a way, galvanized the group.

"That's the passion we need as a team in a hole," Saad said. "You see after that we get a pretty good kill for the most part. I know we gave up one, but it sparked us a little bit and we played with more energy throughout the game. We got to have that throughout the whole 60 minutes, though."

4. All in

The Blackhawks felt like they were making progress under Colliton in the first couple weeks. And then the Vegas game happened, where they lost 8-3 because their effort level wasn't there. Those are the types of losses that are inexcusable.

The Blackhawks are trying to change that or else they'll never be able to dig themselves out of this hole.

"If everyone's not going, you make it tough on yourself," Colliton said. "Especially the way we want to play, we need all give guys on the ice together. We attack together. We defend together. Be willing to do the boring work, be willing to do the thankful stuff. The thing is, if you do it for them, they'll do it for you and everyone gets more in the end. That's what we got to get to. We're not there. But there's no reason why we can't. It's not an ability thing. It's just a will thing. Wasted enough time, let's go now."