For as much talk we heard and read about the Blackhawks beating Nashville at its own game in Game 2, we should hear and read just as much about how the Predators beat the ‘Hawks with an open style in Game 3.
When the Predators jumped ahead 2-1 when Kris Versteeg failed to cover Brent Seabrook on a pinch that led to a 2-on-1, Nashville opened up its game, which should have played into the Blackhawks hands. Instead, Barry Trotz saw what we all saw — the ‘Hawks were skating around with one eye shut and their heads inching toward the pillow. There was no pep in any of the Blackhawks strides and they were basically asleep at the wheel.
Nashville’s game is to pounce on mistakes and take advantage of weaknesses. The Preds are a good enough team and have capable coaching to notice slights in play, and because of that Nashville holds a 2-1 series lead heading into a must-win game we all hoped wouldn’t come until at least the West Finals.
If we’re not supposed to worry, then maybe someone should relay the message to QStache. He’s the one who seems the most worried out of anyone who has invested any amount of time in the Blackhawks. Troy Brouwer couldn’t get a sniff of the ice in the third period, and with all the line jumbling going on nearly every ‘Hawk looked more confused than Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man. Dustin Byfuglien went from defense to offense and back to defense over the course of 12 game minutes. Mounting a comeback is nearly impossible if a team can’t find rhythm.
While it may seem as if the Blackhawks played with a lack of effort tonight — and I’m not discounting that theory — the inconsistency of linemates has to be taking its toll on this team. They took stupid penalties, locked up mentally at times and were completely outplayed in nearly every facet of the game all night.
The point is, through three games of this series Nashville is the team playing the way it planned to play right from the time the playoff matchups were set. It’s the Blackhawks who are conforming their style to even stay in this series against a team that possesses roughly half the overall talent. That’s coaching. QStache has done some great things with this team, but Trotz is the one controlling this series.
Other stuff that really chaps my ass:
— Pekka Rinne was not the reason the Blackhawks couldn’t put the puck in the net tonight. He could have been on a recliner sipping a cup of coffee, and Nashville still would have won this game. The ‘Hawks missed an open net twice and failed to put any traffic in front of Rinne in order to make him work. Nearly every point shot got to him unabated.
— While the ‘Hawks converted on a power play for Tomas Kopecky’s goal, they failed to sustain any pressure on the following two power plays which followed very shortly after. The game was there for the taking if they could have converted on even one of them and changed momentum.
— The Blackhawks had no answer for the Preds physical play and basically curled up into a little ball the entire game. Neato.
— The Blackhawks have scored four goals in three games. The last time that happened? Oct. 29 through Nov. 5, which included a 2-0 shutout at the hands of the Predators. The ‘Hawks lost two of three games in that stretch.
While Nashville will head into Game 4 hoping to do exactly what it did over the first three games of the series, the Blackhawks will once again have to head to video room and decide which style they’d like to play this time. And with all the line juggling, don’t be surprised if QStache suits up Thursday.