Our beloved Chicago Blackhawks will be skating against the Nashville Predators in the Music City this evening after gaining a decisive win against the Los Angeles Kings this past Sunday. As you may recall, the last time the Hawks visited Nashville, things didn’t go too well, and the Hawks limped out of Tennessee on the wrong end of a 2-7 loss. Considering the Predators are nowhere near as formidable as they were a few years ago when they used to really give the Hawks fits, when a team like the Preds, who are hovering in the 11th slot in the Western Conference standings, beat up a team as solid as the Hawks, you have to scratch your head a bit. That is until you look at the penalty minutes. In that embarrassing loss, a total of 22 penalty minutes were racked up, 12 of which were by Hawks players. PS – two of Nashville’s seven goals were on power plays.
This is a pretty telling and pretty predicable statistic. The Predators know they can’t go toe-to-toe with the Blackhawks talent-wise so their only chance at victory is by frustrating and irritating the Hawks to keep them from finding their groove, and sometimes, like the last time these two teams played each other, it works. This should come as no surprise however; the Preds have employed this tactic against the Blackhawks ever since they played them in the first round of the 2010 play-offs, where as we all know, eventually the Hawks pushed back. It’s what we call a trend.
This brings me to my main point. Tonight’s game has the potential of highlighting another, more positive trend than the aforementioned. It’s a trend that pertains specifically to the way the Blackhawks have responded after blow-out losses this season, and the conclusions that can be drawn from analyzing this trend can be summed up in three words: Redemption, Reflection, and Raanta.
First, take a moment to look at the numbers. The Blackhawks have suffered the following lopped-sided losses so far this season:
1.) 10/26 – 5-3 L vs Minnesota Wild
2.) 11/16 – 2-7 L vs Nashville Predators
3.) 12/14 – 3-7 L vs Toronto Maple Leafs
Now look at the scores and the outcome of the very next games the Hawks played following each of those loses, respectively:
1.) 10/26 – 5-3 L vs Minnesota Wild - - 10/28 – 5-1 W vs Minnesota Wild
2.) 11/16 – 2-7 L vs Nashville Predators - - 11/17 – 5-1 W vs San Jose Sharks
3.) 12/14 – 3-7 L vs Toronto Maple Leafs – - 12/15 – 3-1 W vs LA Kings
Needless to say the Hawks have responded beyond commendably. When their image and honor has been sullied, they’ve responded immediately and resolutely to restore their prestige. You may have also noticed two out of these three instances involved back-to-back games. And the conclusions that can be drawn from this trend’s analysis can be summarized as follows: Redemption, Reflection, and Raanta.
Wiktionary doesn’t have a better definition of redemption ladies and gentleman. For the Blackhawks to bounce back from a disappointing and/or downright embarrassing outing by scorching the competition in their very next match-up is quintessential retribution. But it’s more than bragging rights; it means the Hawks have high standards for themselves. Post the 2010 Stanley Cup victory such poor performances went unanswered because of the Hawks diluted roster chemistry and heck, who knew what more the team had left in them. Yet, after their 2013 Stanley Cups, the Hawks have hit the ice with resounding confidence and determination, knowing what they want and how to get it. It’s safe to say, they’re looking to further ink up the record books, and any subpar performances in their eyes are unacceptable. Case in point: even the likes of rising rookie Brandon Pirri was reassigned to the AHL after playing under his full potential.
Such a trend of resilience does not happen by accident. There are plenty of teams out there that use the same approach over and over again to win games, and if it works great, if not, oh well there’s always next time (i.e. the Chicago Bears under Lovie Smith). For the Blackhawks to come back out after humiliating defeats and dominate their next opponent, not once, not twice, but thrice means they’re a learning organism. Putting up such contrasting numbers means they hit books in what little time they had between games, looked at what they did wrong and figured out how to fix it. I don’t know about you, but that is a truly amazing quality for any team to have, let alone to the degree where it manifests so quickly. I mean come on; usually you don’t see such fast turnarounds in game play outside of Disney family feel-good movies.
RAANTA, ANTTI –
Antti Raanta belongs in this trend’s breakdown because let’s face it, thus far in his NHL debut he’s been the embodiment of the previously mentioned qualities. When a team loses its back-up, then starting goalie to injury, most NHL franchises would probably have hit the panic button. And honestly, Hawks GM Stan Bowman probably had the glass case covering that big red button flipped open, but then Raanta proved he’s NHL caliber, and not just statistically. Being a successful goalie in the NHL means deflecting your own inner-demons just as much as the puck. After a horrible showing against the Toronto Maple Leafs where he let in five goals, Raanta regained his composure and put up a solid 21 saves on 22 shots against a far more elite LA Kings team. Raanta has been redemption and reflection rolled into one and has shown resilience between the pipes that will continue to help carry the Hawks to W’s going forward.
So when it comes to tonight’s match-up against the Nashville Predators, it’s a safe bet that the Blackhawks have a long memory, and will be looking to make a statement tonight to rectify all the failing they had against this team a month ago. Here’s hoping boys!
FOR THE DAGGER!