Hawks battered, beaten again by Predators
The NHL All Star break can't come at a better time for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Another poor showing, despite three days off, resulted in their second consecutive loss to the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night.
With the news that Captain Jonathan Toews will be out due to an upper body injury, the Blackhawks took the ice without their best player and it showed from the get go.
They fell behind midway through the first period after Craig Smith deposited his 11th of the season past Blackhawk netminder Corey Crawford. Six minutes later, Nick Leddy coughed the puck up behind the net to Patric Hornqvist who found Mike Fisher all lone in front for an easy one timer sneaking under Crawford's glove.
After the goal, Crawford raised his stick high in the air and smashed it down into pieces, pretty much summarizing what it has been like for him with an inconsistent defense in front of him.
Shots were 10 apiece in the 1st period and the Blackhawks were outshot once again, 10-7 in a scoreless 2nd.
They finally got on the board seven minutes into the 3rd period after Mike Fisher sent the puck over the glass. On the power play, Marian Hossa found Dave Bolland all alone in the slot and he was able to get one past the solid Pekka Rinne to make it a 2-1 game.
Hossa's assist extended his point scoring streak to nine games. Nick Leddy registered his 23rd assist of the year on the goal.
The Blackhawks then went on a tear, making it seem inevitable they would tie the game up, but Pekka Rinne looked brilliant once again, stopping 24 of 25 shots on the night and earning himself another W. Colin Wilson sealed it for Nashville with an empty netter, giving them the 3-1 victory.
The bad news for the Blackhawks is that the four points given to the Predators in their last two games now has each time tied at 64 points overall. Detroit, St, Louis, Nashville and Chicago all have 64+ points, making the Central division extremely tough. The loss drops the Blackhawks, who were the top seed in the west a few days ago, down to the sixth seed, six points clear of the LA Kings.
With the All Star break coming, it gives the Blackhawks an opporunity to rest some of their stars. Toews will use the break to heal up since he'll skip the All Star Game and the injured Patrick Sharp could be making a comeback soon as well.
With Hossa and Patrick Kane being the only Hawks to participate at the All Star Game, it could also give the defense a chance to get things together. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook have been their solid selves for the most part. However, the second pairing of Nick Leddy and Niklas Hjalmarsson has been maddeningly inconsistent for the Hawks of late. Montador and O'Donnell have been a great third pairing since O'Donnell became a regular some 10 games ago.
I fully expect Stan Bowman to be working the trade lines as hard as he can over the All Star break. There's no question that the Hawks have two glaring needs; a top-4 defenseman and a 2nd line center. Whether they have the means to go out and fill those needs is another story.
The Blackhawks are still in great position to contend and by no means is the sky falling. But they'll have to come out hot after the break to stick with the blistering Red Wings, Blues and Predators.
#3 Mike Fisher
#2 Dave Bolland
#1 Pekka Rinne
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