Nashville Predators 3, Chicago Blackhawks 0: We take those

It was a bit of an ugly win, but a win nonetheless.

First Period

The game began with a bit of feeling out from both sides, but it was not without attrition. Matt Benning took a puck off his hand while blocking a shot on a play that instantly elicited a cry of “oh, that’s broken” from all onlookers. The Chicago Blackhawks took control from there, getting heavy traffic in front of Juuse Saros and generally making life hard for the Nashville Predators’ defense. Things were not going well, with the same old story of “the offense can’t get anything going, the goalie is bailing them out” playing out yet again.

Then, like an absolute fool, Nikita Zadorov took an elbowing penalty to hand Nashville a quality opportunity at scoring. Fresh off of having a six-game point streak snapped, Eeli Tolvanen showed no mercy. A nice pass by Calle Järnkrok from low on the right wall dragged everyone over (as an overload power play should), and Tolvanen had ample room to walk on in and rip this beautiful shot.

The rest of the period was a battle. Nashville did some nice work to get the puck down low and attempted to get some heat from the slot, but the Hawks managed to play disciplined in their coverages and switched fluidly to prevent any such luck. The Preds did an admirable job of denying entries and frustrating Chicago’s power play (Mathieu Olivier took a hold against Kirby Dach), pushing them to the perimeter with ease. Rocco Grimaldi was shut down on a breakaway, and the Blackhawks countered by peppering Saros with shots in the dying moments. The score was 1-0 Nashville after 20.

Second Period

In the second, the Blackhawks went away from what they knew, and it clearly handed the momentum to Nashville despite the lopsided shot totals from the first. A stagnant approach to zone entries got even worse when Chicago went all-in on chip and charge entries and puck retrieval. Nashville still produced numerous chances off the rush and even looked more dangerous with this “adaptation.”

Yakov Trenin stood out in this period, even if he didn’t score. The big Russian muffed a few odd-man rushes, but the fact that he used his speed and strength well enough to leverage them was a good sign. The forechecking effort displayed by Trenin led to another few chances by the recently dubbed Herd Line; that’s the kind of stuff you want to see from a cost-efficient group that’s relatively young.

Speaking of the fourth line, Colton Sissons stepped up for the second game in a row. A fantastic read by Sissons allowed him to steal a drifting puck shorthanded, eventually yielding a penalty shot. The gritty center buried a shot under Lankinen’s blocker to make it 2-0.

This period wasn’t all smiles and fun, however. Viktor Arvidsson had an unfortunate play where he essentially injured himself. Arvidsson stared at the ice while skating forward in the zone, and an unprepared Kirby Dach ran into him by accident. The Swedish speedster was down for a prolonged period and didn’t come back into the game. Be on the lookout for an injury update.

Third Period

A Luke Kunin trip and a Colton Sissons slash handed Chicago a 5-on-3, but valiant saves by Juuse Saros kept Nashville on top of things with a successful kill. Kunin didn’t take long to redeem himself, however. A rebound off of a Jérémy Davies shot was buried by No. 11 to make it a nice 3-0 game.

Chicago tilted the ice heavily for the remainder of the time as the John Hynes Preds continued their trend of painful turtling. The Hawks crushed Nashville in all facets of the game, but Juuse Saros stood tall (well, as tall as he could) and kept things clean. Nashville survived a game with a misleading score to get things back on track. 3-0 Nashville with a shutout for Saros.

Three Big Things

  1. Eeli Tolvanen had an unbelievable game. The little, less flashy elements of his game cannot be understated. Brilliant forechecking pressure, telepathic passing and the ever-present shot make up the image of a player who will be a star if he takes the next step. It’s exciting to see him blossom in a season where there have been few constant positives.
  2. The whole team had more jump in this game, but Nashville can’t afford to keep playing like this. Getting dominated in shot totals by a team that’s inferior to you in terms of talent isn’t ideal. The Preds have shown that they can swiftly crush the Hawks before, but this is a bit of an alarming outing. Time to right the ship in the coming days.
  3. Ben Harpur is scaring me, and it’s only a matter of time before he costs the team a win. Turnovers, bobbling the puck constantly, and poor reads on attempted breakout passes have already been noticeable, but the big defender has gotten lucky thus far. John Hynes ought to have him on a short leash.

Post Game Tunes

Jeff Rosenstock rules. Thank you for your time.

Good night, good hockey, and as always, go Preds.