Blackhawks Confidential

Lucky bounces complicate matters for Blackhawks in 4-1 loss to Nashville

OK, class, settle down. Do we have everybody's attention after taking this spitball to the face Friday night?

So much for the Blackhawks' home crowd being the loudest in the NHL. At the end of this 4-1 loss to Nashville, they were one of the quietest crowds in NHL history. Another myth blown to smithereens.

It may have opened with the famous raucous chaos of the national anthem, but it ended with Taps. I think it's time to move on from all the phony BS surrounding the Hawks and point out they were just outhustled when it mattered. Not only their marketing took a beating, but that aura of the Hawks being predestined to get to the Stanley Cup finals was shaken to its core with the Hawks getting chased off the ice in the third period.

Let's figure out how to win the first round before we start talking about the finals, shall we? Say, while I'm thinking about it, did that EA video game simulation that had the Hawks the champions also have them losing to Nashville in the first game?

Hell, if this could happen in Chicago, what's going to take place when it gets to Nashville?

Then again, the Hawks often play better on the road. So much for the myth about the very important support of the home crowd. Sorry, folks, but you don't matter that much.

Antti Niemi looked strangely like Cristobal Huet when Jean-Pierre Dumont, who had a brief Hawks career, flung a backhanded dump-in at the net early in the third. Huet..oh, sorry...I mean Niemi swung and missed as the knuckler bounced by him, hit the left post and just nestled into the net for a goal that just can't happen, be it October or April. Tied 1-1.

"It was lucky, but I'll take it," Dumont said.

Even then, being Chicagoans with lots of practice at losing, you started to get a sinking feeling. The Hawks offense was as dangerous from there as a chili fart, popping up here and there, but mostly stinking.

From that point the Hawks were in scramble mode. And they ended up with scrambled egg on their faces, handing the Predators their first postseason win in 11 tries.

Steve Sullivan, another former Hawk, set the tempo of the game in Nashville's favor just before Dumont got the lucky goal. But in many ways the Predators made their own luck by hanging tough through the first two periods, down just 1-0 after 40 minutes, and then deciding it was opportune for them to take it to the Hawks in the third and seize command.

Troy Brouwer's turnover high in the Hawks zone led to the decisive goal by Dumont. David Legwand got the first shot off at Niemi, but it was Dumont who lifted the rebound for a 2-1 edge that seemed like all the Predators required.

Forget the last two goals. Those were empty netters as the Hawks had to gamble in the closing stages.

While the first period was scoreless, you can argue the Hawks lost control there. Chicago should have been able to set the Predators back with an aggressive start. But the passing wasn't crisp and the Hawks seemed  to be trying to be as patient as Nashville and they simply didn't fight off and through forecheck as well as they should with precision.

The Hawks got a power play 52 seconds into the first period. The Predators know how to throw Chicago off its game by playing to their weakness. Tomas Kopecky tried to pull a Jonathan Toews by attacking the right crease, but it didn't work, and Patrick Sharp was unable later to put in a rebound.

Marian Hossa seemed to have a good deal of energy. And yet nothing went his way. Even Toews had his moments, but couldn't convert.

"We had some good shots, but there was no one in front of him," Hossa explained about Predators goalie Pekka Rinne.

Patrick Kane got the Hawks' lone goal, a juicy second-period rebound off a Sharp shot. If Brouwer scores on a redirect shot in the middle period for a 2-0 lead, maybe Chicago gets momentum. Alas, no such luck, which was all with Dumont and his mates.

Brouwer ends up being a goat in the third rather than a hero in the second, but Brouwer wasn't alone in seeing this one slip from his grasp.

Nashville keeps it simple while the Hawks tried to be more complex. Wrong move. The Hawks' vaunted puck possession game wasn't active because the passing was off.

"They play simple and they frustrate you," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "We got out of our game after they got the lead.

"We were looking for better plays tonight that probably won't be there. When we got to the blue line we were looking for better plays rather than going right to the net. We can't be happy the way the third period went."

If the Predators win two in a row in Chicago after not having won at all on the road until this performance, well, I guess you can figure where we are headed then. Game 2 will be Sunday night and the Hawks will be heavily favored again to even the series at 1.

If they don't win, panic city. Red rising will be an alarm, not a call to arms.

Earlier in the regular season, Q would have come back in net with Huet after a game such as this by Niemi. There is no question that Niemi played a mostly solid game, but none of that matters when he lets in a goal that turns the tide in Nashville's favor.

But Q can't make that decision. He has to stick with Niemi and show that he and this team has confidence in his inexperienced netminder.

 "They showed us tonight they want to win as badly as we do," Sharp said.

Nashville wanted to win more badly than the Hawks here. These decisions are going to be close calls, so lucky bounces will matter.

"We had a little bit of luck, but we'll take it," Sullivan said, copycatting Dumont's words.

You make your own luck, though. Time for the Hawks to make some luck by playing harder and playing smarter and playing simpler.

By the way, where the hell was team leader Duncan Keith? He needs to show up next time around.

And hopefully Niemi's confidence isn't shaken enough to be shaky again next time the puck comes bouncing at him. Another couple bad bounces and the Hawks will be bounced out of this thing before it gets started.



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borg said:


Making your own luck isn't really how it works. The Hawks have probably surrendered twice as many fluke goals as they've scored this season, which is astonishing considering the shot differential they work with. Either way, you won't win many games with scoring once.

I'm not sure what the Hawks can do drastically different. Basically they just have to find a way to win 1-goal games because Nashville isn't going to allow a pace that leads to numerous goals. And I'm pretty sure the Preds are 15-0-1 in their last 16 games decided by 1-goal. That's what they do. That's who they are. And that's a lot for the Blackhawks to overcome.

falkin3 said:

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I disagree Borg. I think the Hawks could do a lot of things drastically different. First and foremost, wake up. They looked really flat. I still don't know why this series started Friday, but that's both teams problems. No excuses there. But I wonder personally.

Further, I can appreciate the new found aggression of my favorite swede pinching in the neutral zone. But all the hawks defensemen were overly aggresive between the blue lines and yielded several odd man breaks. Secondly, there should be a consideration of picking your head up and looking before passing. The possession was horrible. And i would love to see the turnover numbers. They were unacceptable. 50-50 pucks were mostly won by Nashville. How many times have we seen our number one line get owned in our own home? Any team with an offense in this game isn't 2-1 in the third. It's 4-1 at the end of the second.

Lastly, the ice was horrible. Yes, it affects both teams. But it affects us worse. Home ice advantage for a team this fast means get the ice right. I don't care how hot outside it is even though I have no idea cause I don't live in Chicago.

I'm not too concerned though. We got our feet wet and know what we have to do. We are going to score goals. I was nervous about game 1. Sometimes the playoffs are contagious with all the top seeds losing game 1. But I think we'll get back to our game and unfuck ourselves.

borg said:


"We are going to score goals."

I think the Hawks are going to have a real hard time scoring goals. You're most likely looking at 1-0, 2-1, maybe 3-2 games and that's what Nashville excels at. The Preds hardly had any scoring chances at all, something you'd think would guarantee a Hawks win, and still won. Sunday's all but a must-win.

iplagitr said:


It's the same formula we've seen all season. The Hawks have considerably better scoring chances than the opposition and just fail to convert... again and again. And how many of their shots missed the net entirely tonight? Drives me nuts. Q needs to get the targets out during practice and work on the basics.

But even though they weren't in top form, and the bounces never seem to go their way, I still thought the Hawks controlled the first two periods pretty well. But maybe that's the problem. Maybe they looked like they were trying to cruise to a smooth victory instead of driving it home with authority.

I was wondering what would happen if the Preds scored one early in the third. The Hawks haven't caught a break in the third period for the past 5 weeks. It seems this team has to go into the final frame with at least a 2-goal lead with all the mind games they must be playing. After that goal went in they completely lost their composure and looked more like the desperate and uncertain Hawk teams of 2 or 3 years ago.

VegasHawksFan said:


Hearing Sharp say the Preds want to win this as bad as we do is a little disturbing. Did they need to lose the first game to know that? I'm not in sky is falling here mode because I do believe the Hawks will win at least the first round, but there is something missing there and it isn't talent. Nashville played the same game they have played all year, there was absolutely nothing new in what they did. The Hawks played to some degree like they weren't ready to face that. This isn't always true, but I remain convinced the breaks and lucky bounces tend to go for the team working for them, and that wasn't the Hawks last night. Like the Sharks, the Hawks are not going to win by simply controlling the puck all night against a team that thrives on checking and choking the life out of a game while waiting for a chance to just throw something at the net and play for the greasy goal.

Until the Hawks make the next evolution of being a true two way hockey team wherein EVERY player forechecks and backchecks, they have to try and play to their strength which is outscoring. Hossa says no one is in front of the net, how many times do we have to hear that? Listening to the Yotes game, the announcers said that the Wings heavily practiced their PK, especially taking away point shots after they got beat by three PP's by the worst PP in the league. That, to me, is what facing reality looks like. What will Q work on today? I'd like to think that a rebound effort on Sunday will say a lot about this team, but I don't think that's the case. We have seen "flashes" all year, and then repeat descents into shitty and stupid play; we know what they are capable of and they are capable of beating a team like Nashville. In series, I still think the Hawks win against this team.

iplagitr said:


Good post, Nuk.

Anyone tune into any of the other games that were on last night? Was it just me or was every other game about 1000 times more exciting than the Hawks/Preds? It seems every other team was working at playoff level speed and intensity, but then you come back to the coverage at the UC and it looked (and sounded, as Mike pointed out) like they were airing a recorded game from the middle of January. Everything about that game was flat. Time to crank it up about 10 notches, Hawks.

SDSTAN said:

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Steve Sullivan saying the ice is terrible, great ,plays right into Nashville's game, get it fixed! Anyway, no excuses though, that first goal sucked all the life out of the building and the team it seems, hard to believe they would let that happen (Niemi has to find a way to stop that). Brouwer with a inexcusable turnover at the blueline when he had a clear lane to his left and then of course Sopel was directly involved as well (time for Boynton maybe?) as he glides right by the loose puck and his man and ends up behind the net watching the puck go in. All that being said,that is the only way Nashville can win a game and if the Hawks just play a little smarter and faster, they should prevail.

fattybeef said:

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Dude theyre professional hockey players. Complaining about the ice is like a basketball player bitching about a rim being to tight (haha rim), soccer player crying becuase the grass isnt cut short enough or missing in some parts, stock car driver pissed its hot out, a golfer the rough is to long and bunkers to deep, and so forth.

When youre an elite athlete you should be able to adjust and if you cant then you deserve to lose.

I was fortunate enough to get tickets to the game and it was the most boring hockey Ive ever seen in my life. Playoffs my ass. It was my buddys first game, I felt bad for him. As a team they skated with little or no purpose, didnt hit anyone, didnt chase down any of the dumps. Terrible terrible game.

The only line that played with any purpose, drive, or balls was the fraz, TK and eager crew. Real bad when those guys are the only ones who can keep the puck in the other teams end.

And how bout Sharp shitting the bed. Well his pants in this case. You could smell it all the way up in 304. A "sniper" who misses more cookies and break aways than Ive seen. He's not playing center anymore so cant use that excuse, on a line where all he has to do is bury his chances and he sucks real bad at it. I hate to say it but Id honestly rather see steeger get a shot on that line. At least he seems to have a fairly golden touch lately.

That being said, I thought Buff looked good and Hossa wasnt bad. Unfortunate that they didnt take their chances early to open things up.

Grego15 said:

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Could someone tell me why Burish wasn't playing? I know he's no great player but I just don't get why he wasn't playing. His energy could have definitely helped at least somewhat yesterday. There are others who could sit instead of Burish but if someone can explain to me I'd really appreciate it.

Jerry Kayne said:


No drastic changes needed. Just add speed to the Hawks game and they'll dominate.

Someone has to manufacture "energy" when there isn't any. If we need to add more line 4 types I say ... subtract Bolland ... add Burrish to line 1, rinse and repeat.

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