The Chicago Blackhawks finally broke what seems to be a very bad habit in recent games. In the third period, they stood tall with no coasting to the finish. They raced for pucks, challenged defensive zone entries, backchecked like crazy, and went from defense to offense in a split second. With most fans fidgeting in their seats thinking that a one goal lead in the third period was not enough – not with the way the Blackhawks have played lately – their team drew back their confidence with strong defense and solid goaltending.
The Nashville Predators were supposedly in desperation mode making a last-ditched effort to snag a playoff spot. Any desperate hockey team is a dangerous hockey team, and making a last-ditched effort against the top club in the league would prove a very strong point to the team, their fans, and the rest of the league. “That’s right. We can pull an L.A.” The Predators fell short of that powerful statement as the Blackhawks were ready to make a statement of their own. In the first of back to back games between the two teams, the Blackhawks beat the Predators 1-0 in Nashville.
The Blackhawks came out strong in the first period, out-shooting the Predators 10-5 and outscoring them 1-0. About 5:30 into the game, Bryan Bickell and Michal Handzus had a 2 on 1 breakaway chance and made it count as Handzus controlled the puck, waited for the one defender to drop and slide, then dished it to Bickell who had an empty net with Pekka Rinne down.
Only a minute in to the second period, Blackhawks fans did a bit of panicking as Patrick Kane blew a tire while circling his own net and fell awkwardly into the post with his knee. He took a brief walk to the locker room and was back a minute later for his next shift, drawing attention all over the ice for the rest of the game as usual. Kane almost made it 2-0 on the only Chicago power play of the afternoon as Brandon Saad danced to the slot attracting bodies to himself then dished it to Kane just above the goal line who clanged it off the outside edge of the near post. As many times as we’ve seen that go in, it’s pretty shocking when it doesn’t.
In the third period, the Predators built a little momentum but Ray Emery had the answer every time with saves through traffic and point blank. As the clock wound down, the game at last became interesting when Daniel Carcillo was knocked to the ground and then high-sticked Shea Weber, drawing blood and a 4 minute minor penalty. During those four minutes, Jonathan Toews lost his stick but didn’t let that stop him from confronting Roman Josi, receiving a high stick of his own (which wasn’t called), and getting a shorthanded shot on goal a shift later on the same PK.
After failing to score on the four minute man advantage, the Predators pulled Rinne to the bench calling on Patric Hornqvist to make a sliding-crashing save against Michael Frolik on an empty net with 90 seconds left. But tons of saves won’t win a game if you never score, and the Blackhawks thanked Emery for making one goal enough and congratulated him on his second shutout of the season.
As has been the case all season long, Blackhawks fans crowded the arena and annoyed Predators fans by chanting and cheering for the visiting team at several points in the game and a standing ovation at the end.
With today’s win, the Blackhawks can clinch a playoff spot if the Phoenix Coyotes lose tonight against the Colorado Avalanche, regulation or not.
The Blackhawks’ next game is Sunday night in Chicago against the Predators and promises to be a whole new ball game.
What will the Blackhawks need to do differently or similarly to pull off two back to back wins against the same team?