If you were to look at any of the numbers for this game, it would seem like the Blackhawks gave a pretty decent effort save for having a poor example of a power-play, and a combined save percentage of about .700 from their goaltenders. In fact, I was impressed by the first 5 minutes of hockey by the Hawks. I did not have high hopes for this game, but the Hawks looked ready to grind things out and were winning most of the battles in the early minutes.
Of course, one large battle won was the one that took place between Bollig and Tootoo that ended up sending Tootoo to the emergency room. Say what you will about Bollig, you have to admire his style, and he is a much more effective enforcer than Scott.
The first battle that the Hawks would lose ended with the puck in the back of their net. The Predators realizing they would have to up the tempo, found themselves grinding hard in the corner and behind the Hawks net. The goal was due to the Preds hard work, but also in part to Morrison's missed coverage, and Crawford's hiding in his net. You have to score first against the Predators and that was the first reason the Hawks lost. In the larger picture, you have to be a tad unhappy with the performance of Morrison, and even wonder what other options are available to the Hawks. I didn't mind moving Sharp to center, and Frolik up with the second line, nor would I mind seeing Brandon Pirri again. And yes, in the bigger picture, there are large concerns about goaltending, which I will touch upon in a moment.
The 2nd goal was all on Crawford. No complaints about any of the defensive coverage on this one, and it forced a shot from a bad angle and from way out. No reason this should find net. The 3rd bounced off of 2 skates, which is unfortunate, but if Crow had his net covered, there would not have been any hole for this to squeak through. On the 4th goal, Stalberg performed a very impressive back-check and it should have won the Hawks the puck, but for whatever reason they played hot potato with it and an easy shot from the point blew passed Crawford. A shot that should have been saved and this landed him in the doghouse. The 5th goal by the Preds was a Weber blast from the point that we can only guess reached upwards of 100 mph. Not a goal you want to see Emery give up, but we understand who was shooting. The 6th goal was maybe the only goal in which the defensive coverage of the Hawks could have some blame. A 2-on-1 that provided enough room for a wicked wrist shot to the top corner, that could be saved, but was also fairly well placed.
Stalberg would end up with the Hawks lone goal, and it came just as the Hawks power-play was ending. This caused the Hawks to be 0-4 on the power-play, which is the other big reason why the Hawks lost, and might continue to be into the playoffs. The Stalberg goal was the result of a well placed and quick wrist shot that had Rinne fooled, which is uncommon. Stalberg had probably the best chance to score earlier in the game when he received a beautiful pass from Kane, but failed to pull the trigger fast enough. The play sort of tells the story of the kind of mind games Pekka Rinne brings to the game. He is just that good, and it has every player second guessing every shot they take. They just never think they have a good enough chance of scoring. The Stalberg goal proves that you just have to take it.
Needless to say, this game was not as lopsided as the score might presume, but the Hawks were most definitely beaten by a superior squad. In large part to goaltending. While Crawford put together a decent stretch of hockey recently, I can see no reason why he was getting those starts over Emery who had IMO won that job outright already. Crawford has made some saves lately, but he still looks shaky in the net and is off his game. Make no mistakes about it, Crawford's game is in his ability to cut off angles, play positioned goaltending, follow the puck and anticipating the shot. He is not a reactive goaltender, is not very quick, does not have a great glove hand, and is just not going to make the stellar saves too often. Pecka Rinne is superior in every way. He has all of the positioning strength, smarts, and size, all while being very reactive and quick. I just don't know if the Hawks can beat this team in the playoffs, and goaltending is a big part of why.
Coupled with how smart this Preds team plays hockey, their machine like quality and superior goaltending places them as a top team going into the playoffs. Adding insult, they know exactly how to beat the Hawks and where to beat them. The Preds strangle the Hawks in the neutral zone, which (as I have said about a thousand times) is where the Hawks win or lose games. Having Toews and Keith out pretty much kills the Hawks here. They are 2 players that add a ton of neutral zone movement to the game. Kane has that ability too, but the Preds were on him as if the game depended on it (which it might have). Hossa found some room a couple of times, as well as Stalberg, but it was few and far between, and then they faced the Rinne wall.
In conclusion, not a bad effort by the Hawks. They were never really out of it until the end, and they showed a lot of good things during the game. It just happens that they also showed what looks like an inability to ever beat the Predators and most likely lost any chance at home-ice in the playoffs. This is going to be a long week.