Blackhawks look helpless in 6-1 loss to Nashville - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Blackhawks look helpless in 6-1 loss to Nashville

Updated: Mar 26, 2012 13:36 PM CDT
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The Chicago Blackhawks five game winning streak came to a resounding halt with a 6-1 loss to the Nashville Predators Sunday night. This one goes into the ugly loss column as the Hawks came up with an empty effort against a strong team.

With the win, Nashville is now four points ahead of Chicago and it isn't as likely the two clubs will meet in the opening round of the playoffs. That's probably a good thing for the Blackhawks as they have been able to capture only one point in five games versus the Predators.

These days due to an injury to Jonathan Toews and a suspension to Duncan Keith, the Hawks have to manage without both. That in itself is a tremendous challenge and to win, the Hawks must be able to adapt. Nashville was without Martin Erat, who is one of their top forwards, but they stuck to what they do best. On Sunday night, the Predators once again brought out the worst in the Blackhawks.

Imagine the Hawks as an expensive sports car with wide, low profile tires trying to move rapidly down a snow covered road. The speedy car is capable of traveling at excessive speeds but the snow prohibits it from travelling any faster than an old jalopy. The Predators are able to take the speed out of the Blackhawk attack as they effectively shut down their offense.

There is really only one way to succeed against a solid checking team with an outstanding goaltender and that is to keep things simple. In this case, the Hawks would need to get into the Predators zone by chipping or dumping the puck in behind the Nashville defense. Then the Hawk forwards must work hard to retrieve the puck and look to create scoring chances by going to the Predators' net. After the Predators top pairing of Shea Weber and Ryan Sutter, their defense has some holes.

Sunday night, the Hawks didn't do what was needed to succeed versus Nashville and as a result, their own vulnerabilities were exposed. Except for Andrew Shaw and a couple of shifts from the fourth line, goaltender Pekka Rinne was left unbothered. The Blackhawks forwards were kept out on the dreaded perimeter and as a result their offense was ineffective.

The Chicago forwards kept trying to skate into the offensive zone but to no avail. The Nashville defensive structure was so solid the Hawks could not get through center ice with much speed. The Predators were waiting for the Hawks at their blueline and did a fine job of not allowing Patrick Kane and others to create scoring chances. Eventually Hawk players tried to do too much on their own and that sealed their fate.

Even if everyone were healthy, the Hawks will lose to quality teams if they didn't keep the game simple and work hard. Clubs like Nashville, St. Louis, Dallas, Los Angeles and Phoenix who pride themselves on air tight defensive coverage will pose a difficult challenge. Once again, the Predators made it look simple while facing the Blackhawks and the score was an indication of their dominance.

The Chicago power play can be best described as abysmal. There is now a lack of depth due to the injuries no doubt, but the Hawks have had a poor power play for most of the season. Not enough shots are generated and when they do get through to the net there isn't enough traffic to disrupt opposing goalkeepers. Without Toews, not having another center who can consistently win faceoffs further diminishes the chances of power play success.

The Blackhawks are losing momentum with the man advantage because they don't come close to scoring a goal. Versus Nashville, the Hawks went 0-4 with the man advantage and did not record a shot on goal. This season the Blackhawks have scored only one power play goal in 19 attempts against the Predators.

When playing top clubs, the Hawks may not have an advantage at even strength, so scoring on the power play is extremely important. Not having a potent power play obviously isn't good and combined with not having a strong penalty killing unit leaves the Blackhawks vulnerable for an early playoff exit. Top teams like Nashville quickly figure out how to exploit weaknesses.

Joel Quenneville and his staff - we will include Barry Smith as well for sake of discussion - haven't done a good job coaching up the special teams.

General Manager Stan Bowman could have done more to improve the Hawks chances with an additional trade deadline acquisition. Another physical forward like Shaw or Jamal Mayer who can skate and bring some physicality would have helped. Acquiring another capable faceoff man could have greatly improved power play effectiveness as well as helped the penalty killing unit.

For success, the Blackhawks need to play efficient hockey which requires an all out effective effort by each player on every shift. For the most part, the Hawks were doing just that during their preceding five games and they recorded ten points. So it is possible for the Blackhawks to put forth the necessary work and proper style of play to have a strong showing but there is little room for error.

Sunday night's performance didn't come close to fulfilling those winning requirements, and the score indicated the same.

The Hawks will travel to New Jersey for a Tuesday night clash with the Devils. Like the Blackhawks, the Devils are in sixth place in their Conference and have a bit of a cushion but both teams shouldn't be too comfortable. 

According to Blackhaws beat reporters Corey Crawford will start in goal on Tuesday as Ray Emery did not participate in practice. Emery is listed as day-to-day with an upper body injury. Goal tender Carter Hutton has been recalled from Rockford and will be the back-up in New Jersey.

Those expected to play Tuesay against the Devils are center Marcus Kruger, Andrew Brunette and Viktor Stalberg.  

Defenseman Steve Montador will travel to New Jersey and is hoping to 
play versus the Devils and Jonathan Teows skated but is not yet cleared for contact.

The Hawks will play without defenseman Sami Lepisto, even though he skated at practice, he still isn't ready to participate in team drills.

The Devils will look to take advantage of home ice and get back to playing winning hockey. New Jersey has lost four of their previous five games so they should be focused. 

Al's Shots

Just when Hawks fans go to embrace Crawford and envision him to be a difference-maker in the playoffs, he stumbles. Crawford didn't have one of his top efforts on Sunday. The second Nashville tally wasn't a good goal, but overall Crawford didn't have much help.

Ray Emery came into the game in the final frame and looked rusty, allowing two goals on nine shots.

The Hawks defensemen had a rough game as they all looked shaky at times. The senior citizen and rookie pairing of Sean O'Donnell and Dylan Olsen looked particularly vulnerable.

On the injury front, Steve Montador is cleared for contact and progressing. Jonathan Toews skated for his sixth consecutive day on Sunday, apparently without any issues.

Center Marcus Kruger skated on Sunday as well and is expected to play against the Devils Tuesday. It appears Kruger might have received a Brent Seabrook type concussion, one which doesn't require a long stay in sick bay.

Kruger is a bright player who is good in all three zones but he must change. Kruger has trouble staying in the lineup because he isn't able to avoid some of the big hits which routinely come his way. The chances of Kruger having a long NHL career lessen with every concussion.

In another staged fight, which did nothing to boost the energy level of the Hawks, Brandon Bollig got the best of Jordin Tootoo.

Bollig used his size advantage and delivered a few big shots to Tootoo's face. The Predator forward didn't return for the final two periods, having suffering an upper body injury.

Fighting in the NHL is also the cause of some concussions.

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