The Nashville Predators came into today’s game with the Chicago Blackhawks needing a win to keep their already diminished playoff hopes alive. They stuck to their game plan and played 60 minutes of hockey against the Hawks, but in the end they couldn’t solve Ray Emery and one goal was enough for Chicago to win.
The first period was all Chicago. The Blackhawks outshot Nashville 10-5, but the Preds only made that number possible by picking up three shots in the last few minutes of play. The Blackhawks picked up their lone goal at 5:31 when Bobby Butler picked a poor time to cheat and left a gap on the blue line. The puck squirted out and Michal Handzus shot up the right wing. He and Bryan Bickell broke in on a 2-on-1, and Bickell converted Handzus’ feed to make the score 1-0.
Nashville looked far stronger in the second period, especially as it opened. Chicago still had the edge in shots on goal, 13-8. In the third period Nashville managed to stay even in shots, 7-7, for a total deficit of 30-20 on the game. Nashville actually managed to string together some pretty strong scoring chances in the last half of the game. But no matter what the Preds did, Emery had an answer for them. The 30-year-old picked up his 13th win in 17 starts this season and the Blackhawks shut out the Preds at Bridgestone for the second time in 2013.
As good as Emery was, Pekka Rinne’s performance was more impressive. He stopped 29 of 30 shots, only failing on a 2-on-1 where Bryan Bickell wasn’t pressured at all. Peks and his defender both stayed with Michal Handzus, so once Handzus completed the pass the net was wide open and the goal a foregone conclusion. Other than that, Rinne was flawless. This is just more proof that no matter how good the big guy is, he can’t win games by himself.
- The Nashville Predators’ power play unit has been one of the team’s sorest spots this season, and it failed in a major way when it didn’t take advantage of a double-minor to Dan Carcillo in the third period. They didn’t even manage a shot. A total overhaul of the PP system really needs to be a priority this off-season.
The penalty kill looked very good the one time it was called upon in the second period, a testament to the difference a healthy Hal Gill makes.
- Paul Gaustad was scratched today with an issue apparently related to the previous injuries that have kept him out of the lineup for half of this season. Without him the team went 20-for-49 in faceoffs.
- Kevin Klein was in top form today, making several key defensive plays throughout the game to stifle a Blackhawks offense doing everything it could to break through for a second goal. He’s the kind of guy who doesn’t show up on the scoresheet often but makes a huge difference for the team on the ice.
- I like Nick Spaling. He works hard. But he shouldn’t be playing on anybody’s top line in the NHL.
- The Nashville Predators have now scored one goal in two games (both at home) in the Post-Erat Era.
- This game was pretty much the end of the road for Nashville’s season. They’re now standing at roughly a three-percent chance of making the playoffs, and to top it off they get to suffer the ignominy of playing in Chicago tomorrow afternoon.