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."