It's the little things that kill: Chicago Blackhawks 1, Nashville Predators 3.

It's the little things that kill: Chicago Blackhawks 1, Nashville Predators 3.

The Hawks had a ton of rookies out there last night. They were missing their top 2 scorers and pretty much their soul in Toews. Frolik was scratched, and Bickell was in. Instead of playing the more solid goaltender, Q decided to go with Crawford. A move that Edzo and Folley referred to as a good one more than twice, and I am not so quick to agree. As Fourfeather pointed out in the last post, you are gonna need at least 3 goals to win with CC in net. Looking down at the other end makes that seem a little tougher as Rinne is on fire, serving as the juice behind the Predators sprint up into the standings.

It was the little things that killed though, as 2 very costly turnovers allowed the Preds to seal the deal early in the game. The little things will be the focus of an opinion peace I have written up that will follow in a day or so. Honestly, the Hawks looked pretty energetic out there. They were the better team in the first period when considering the full 20 minutes of it, and they never gave up on the game after falling into the 2-0 hole. A hole the Predators are pretty good at closing up. There were a couple of big chances for the Hawks in the 1st period, and even later which could have caused a much different outcome, but the Hawks just couldn't convert. Rinne is damn good, and they just have to be better at winning some battles when playing a team like Nashville.

The Hawks basically fell right into the Predators trap of a game. With that lead formed in the first, the Preds got to sit back and play their damn tight system of a game and just watched as the Hawks tried to score goals from the perimeter without any net presence, and Rinne is just too good to allow anything with that weak kind of pressure. The Preds know how to win with their style, they know their limits and the Hawks could learn something from that.

A 3rd period power-play brought the Hawks within striking range when Bolland scored on a pass from Hossa. The play resembled everything we have been hoping for from the PP-unit. Keep it simple, get open in front and use the one-timer. Actually, even though the Hawks were unable to score on either of the next 2 PP's, they looked pretty decent during them and almost evened the score a couple of times. But, when you are given 3 straight opportunities like that with the man-advantage, you have to make the most of it and the Hawks did not. There was sustained pressure in the 3rd, good attempts but nothing ever got passed Rinne as the Predaotrs did their best to keep the Hawks as far from him as possible.

Points on the night:

  • Stalberg got some criticism from Folley about not hitting, but I thought it was unwarranted. Stalberg had a good overall game, despite being the reason for the too many men call in the last 2 minutes of play. He had some good looks and was nearly a difference maker.
  • Which is more than I can say for Kaner. I hate to do this, and harp on the guy, but this was your time buddy. Sharp and Toews are out and it necessitated stepping up. Hossa understood that and was a machine out there. Oh yeah, in case you missed it, Hossa had another really strong game. And, Bolland continues to rack up points with the big guns out. Glad to see that he gets it.
  • Well, turnovers. Yeah, well, there ya go. Huh. Im tired of it, are you? I don't even feel like commenting on it anymore. I tell you, it's the little things that kill and especially when you are playing the Preds. The Predators are really freaking good at playing a simple, tight game, working hard in each and every battle, and then pouncing on their opponent's mistakes. Point and case, this game.
  • Result, the Hawks are going to have to be smarter and work harder when the little things are concerned.
  • Of course, there was a decent amount of line-juggling from the 2nd period on.
  • Crawford ended up making some really big saves later in the game, but it doesn't make-up for his gimme on the first goal. He didn't make the 2 saves when it counted more and has me looking at Q for playing him last night. I can sort of see the reasoning, but what about the reasoning that says Emery earned that start?
  • As close as the Hawks came to evening the score last night, they were equally as close to allowing the Predators to blow the game out. The Hawks almost let things get out of control while pressuring for a goal in the 2nd period. This is when Crawford stepped it up. It can't be that if they pressure hard for a goal, they completely forget about their defensive responsibilities.
  • I thought the PK looked pretty darn solid.
  • I am also going to question the whole Frolik sits and Bickell plays move by Q. Fro might no be scoring, but he gives a hell of a lot more on the ice. This wasn't the game to for it anyway.
  • Despite having 5 rookies on the ice, each and every one of them looked good. Kruger made some nice plays, but again, I just see more in Pirri and think he should be the one racking up the ice-time as a 2nd/3rd line center. Not a big deal, just an observation.
  • What is your take on Leddy? He was pretty guilty a couple of times last night and it seems like something has to break with that 2nd pairing. As news that the Hawks are looking at bringing Campoli back surfaces, it has me wondering if we might see either Leddy or Hjalmer gone completely or moved down to the 6th pairing. Is Campoli the answer? I did warn against letting him go after also moving Campbell, but I did not see this type of defensive struggle in the cards.

In the end, it would be the Hawks inability to win battles, establish a net presence, break perimeter play and find any second chances on Rinne. Pecka is good, maybe the best in the league when he is on, and you just have to bring more against him. The Predators know this, and they are quite comfortable letting the opposition shoot from the outside where they can block shots and pick up anything near the net. Again, the Hawks could learn a few from them.
The loss shoots the Hawks down to 6th in the conference and 4th in the division. More importantly, the loss at home has me wondering if the Hawks would be able to win a series in the playoffs against any of their division competition.

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  • The thing that stands out to me this year is defense. With 162 goals scored, the Hawks lead their conference and are second in the league only to Boston. The front end is not without issues, but honestly, scoring is not the problem for this team. Defensive issues, however, affect every area of this team. Offensively, this team is still primarily built to be a team that either cherry picks for breakaways or uses an "active stick" to force a turnover and transition quick. The quick pass that Stalberg drove to the net is a textbook example of what the Hawks would LIKE to do all night long. Whether they still have the right players or whether Q will let the players stick together long enough to build that kind of chemistry is a debatable subject.

    On the back end, I don't think there is any question that the current group cannot live up to their end of the game plan. The biggest difference I see between Leddy and Campbell is experience. When hassled by a large forward, Campbell was muscled off of pucks exactly like Leddy is. Leddy's ability is not the problem in my eyes. What is a problem in my eyes is that the entire defensive core is not very big and really only does their best work when they can beat a forward to a puck and get a quick pass off or can pull a quick move and start breaking the puck up ice. Give Keith or Leddy that first couple of steps and they will put it to good use. In one on one battles, however, the Hawks D frequently loses the battle and in Hammer's case, frequently lets players get between him and the net. When the Hawks lose that race for the first steps off the boards, other teams, especially teams like the Preds, smell blood and swarm the net.

    SB may not have many good trades open to him. His picks for the cup team blow up are looking pretty good, while his free agency pick ups are a little more mixed. An expensive rental D man that costs us Stalberg or one of the rookies up with the team now is not a trade I'd be real excited about. Much as I hate to say it, I still feel like the gap between the Hawks and a real Stanley Cup contender is likely bigger than can be fixed by one trade.

  • "In the end, it would be the Hawks inability to win battles, establish a net presence, break perimeter play and find any second chances on Rinne. "

    You nailed it. HH. That's been the case for some time now and will continue to be until our illustrious coach actually employs a system to counter it. Misuse of the available skill set is something I can't see past here.

    In fairness, he has 25% of his roster as ice hogs, but all the more reason to change the game plan. For the most part it did look like they were playing with each other for the first time. The Preds are hot, the 'hawks are not. That simple. I hate that turn it on in the last period crap. Play that way for a full 60 for once.

    I'm with you and Vegas, it wasn't a bad effort last night. But the usual suspects—turnovers, lack of prep to start and inept PP—were front and center again. Coaching, coaching, coaching! Yup, I'm back on the coaching wheel again. This team needs a wake-up call in the worst way.

    Bickell in for Frolik. Honestly, I have to wonder just what Q is smoking some days.

  • In reply to fourfeather:

    What I'm hoping is that Q played Bickell in an attempt to build trade value, although I would have to label that attempt, Fail. Frolik's and Bickell's numbers really aren't that much different save for the fact Fro has racked up fewer penalty minutes. On paper, I can make an argument that Bickell is a guy who should play against a team like Nashville IF (and it's a huge IF) he has been sufficiently motivated by sitting in the press box recently. Of course, it didn't work that way so what option is there now?

    The talent gap from top to bottom on this team seems problematic to me. I feel like there are two pairs of guys where we debate the logic of playing one over the other when the reality is that neither player is really an "answer" to any top tier problem the Hawks need to fix. Bickell and Fro are one pair, Scott and Lepisto are another. In each case you can say one is better then the other and the latter pair, they have each been surpassed by a 40 YO dude who isn't an "answer" either. The bottom line is that no matter which player wins the decision to play, it still feels like a deficit situation.

    The more I think about the whole picture, the less optimistic I am that this season will end anywhere close to the cup with the team as it is. If Q is fired, Haviland seems like the best choice because at least he knows the team. Assuming Havy suddenly has this team doing everything we believe they don't do because of Q, I feel like the reality of the last paragraph comes into play. A coach can rearrange players and define roles, but if he can't make Bickell hit or sprinkle scoring dust on Frollik's stick, he needs to work around them unless some other rookie steps up. Havy also can't make Leddy suddenly gain enough weight and muscle to help him deal with a strong forecheck. I believe SB is working the phones, but without putting some real talent on the table, I don't know what he gets in return.

    Regardless, I believe the Hawks will make the playoffs, but no one is going to be happy with how this year turns out. Q isn't my long term answer, but neither is the roster. I think SB made some progress this year, but not enough.

  • Spoken like a true analyst, Vegas.

    Frolik brings heart to the game, which last time I checked BB has none.
    Q has a nervous twitch when it comes to line-ups.

    What I see is a team that plays the way it wants to play when it wants to play. Yes, they get it together for four or five games and things roll merrily along and then—as though they are entitled simply by throwing their sticks on the ice—they pull off the crap we have seen so many times this year. This was Nashville. Two very important games and they couldn't find a way to even salvage a split. I really believe—apart from the incessant line combinations and the on-ice line changing Q has very little reign over these players. In my eyes, Toews, Hossa Seabrook and Frolik are the notables who "bring it" every game. The team is simply not motivated enough to match the intensity of good opposition. That's on coaching in my books. A new coach brings change and perhaps a fresh outlook, fresh system, and maybe understands roles and utilization of the available talent. Does Trotz coach his system or does he coach with what he's been given? Would he coach differently if he had the 'hawks' line-up?

    You're right, Vegas, the dichotomy between the top tier and the lower rung is too differentiated and SB hasn't done anything to change that this year and beyond. Montador is here for a bit but the rest will be footnotes next year. The kids are getting a good luck and this will impact how the team moves forward. They know what they have now.

    You're right too, I'm sure he's working his blackberry, but let's get real. He gets nothing for what he wants to offer.

    As for Leddy, he's been thrust into a role where clearly it's baptism by fire. He was on the Rockford shuffle just a year ago. Clearly a five/six defender at this stage of his development he's been asked to fill the shoes of great offensive defense man.

    So, for me, given that little is going to materialize without a huge trade going down, it becomes obvious that a 3/4 D man is the most pressing need.

    It's going to be tough to win with so many kids in the lineup. But, the experience will be invaluable. What's sad is that this team has a chance to go far with a couple of shrewd moves. It's also easy to sit here and type that. When you hoard your players, be they top tier all stars, or your prospects, or both, and try to deal from your weaknesses it's hard to see any improvement coming by way of any trade.

  • I have wondered before what Trotz would do if he coached this team. I don't watch a lot of Nashville games, but I admire the effort and fundamental approach that team brings every night. He makes you think he gets the most possible out of his team.

    I think that Q became the best coach available when he was hired here. Tallon collected a very solid roster of talent and a lot of those guys fit together very well. Having said that, Nashville very nearly ended that cup run before it began. In addition to addressing some specific positions, I do think the team needs a fresh look. A new coach is probably not going to install a top to bottom system in one year's time, but it would be nice to see something other then a constant cycle at the boards and endless line juggling.

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