The Chicago Blackhawks lost last night in overtime against the Nashville Predators. Their second game of the series is tonight, and while there were definitely some positives in last night’s loss, there are always areas where the team can improve.
The ‘Hawks are already going to have an uphill battle for the foreseeable future. The team announced on Monday that forward Alex DeBrincat and defenseman Adam Boqvist would be unavailable for the next two weeks due to the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols. Add that to the list of players already out, and this team is going to have to dig deep to rack up some wins.
The Predators were seemingly angry last night, coming off two brutal losses against the Dallas Stars. They definitely used this against Chicago in the last game and will be looking to carry that momentum into tonight’s bout.
However, the Blackhawks are a resilient team and should be able to weather the storm if they do a few things right. Here are three keys to victory for tonight’s game against the Nashville Predators.
Keep the Blackhawks’ powerplay red-hot
The Blackhawks have not had much luck with their powerplay the past few seasons, but that’s all changed this year. The ‘Hawks powerplay is absolutely on fire. They’ve scored on the man advantage in every game they’ve played, and Dylan Strome tallied a PP marker in the first period last night.
Chicago’s powerplay has been generating numerous chances, and they’ve had conversions to show for it. The team’s PP percentage is at 42.9 percent, second in the league behind only Dallas. Although the ‘Hawks formation has been going very well, Alex DeBrincat typically helped anchor the powerplay’s first line.
With DeBrincat out, the Blackhawks will have to keep up the pressure on the man advantage to be able to keep scoring at will, as they seem to have been doing all season long. Hopefully, the team’s powerplay will keep shining, and help carry the ‘Hawks to a victory.
Be more disciplined
While Chicago’s powerplay has been firing on all cylinders, the flip side of their special teams has left much to be desired. The ‘Hawks penalty kill sits at 75.9 percent, which is 21st in the league.
This is not necessarily a surprise. The team’s defense was perhaps one of the biggest questions entering this season, and the Blackhawks defensive core has let in way too many goals this season, especially on the penalty kill.
What is the short answer to this issue? Well, staying out of the box is a must. While the team didn’t let in any Predators goals last night on the powerplay, they still took four penalties, which didn’t help their effort by any means.
Even out of the box, the team has been letting in too many goals. Their goals against per game is 3.71, which could definitely be better. One of the easiest ways to do that is to keep playing as disciplined as they can, and stay out of the box to minimize the Pred’s chances on special teams.
Goaltending must be stellar
Perhaps the only question bigger than defense this year was the team’s issues with goaltending. The Hawks’ have had a rotating door of goalies this year, but it hasn’t necessarily worked out in anyone’s favor.
Per Ben Pope of the Chicago Sun-Times, “the Blackhawks ‘relatively open’ goalie competition-as coach Jeremy Colliton describes it- has worked out poorly in two ways so far.” However, the goalie that has taken over the spotlight is perhaps the last guy that anybody expected.
Rookie Kevin Lankinen was stellar in his first two career starts, with a .909 save percentage and an impressive 2.63 goals-against-average. Having spent last season with Rockford, many people expected Lankinen to be the third-string starter this season while Malcolm Subban and Collin Delia battled it out for the top spot.
Lankinen, however, appears to be the go-to guy for the time being. Subban had a decent game last night, but his previous start, the season opener against Tampa Bay, was dismal. No starter has been named yet for tonight’s game, but hopefully, Lankinen will get another chance to take the net.
If not, though, then the ‘Hawks will need Delia or Subban to step up and help the team carry itself to victory. This should be doable, assuming the offense keeps firing on the other end. Find out what happens tonight when the puck drops against Nashville at 6:30 p.m. CST.