Fresh off the brief All Star break, the Nashville Predators struggle to capitalize on scoring chances and lose 2-1 to Chicago Blackhawks.
With the All Star break behind them, the Nashville Predators are having a formidable season that has them on the cusp of first place in the West. Their first opponent after the All Star break was none other than the deplorable Chicago Blackhawks. Unfortunately we thought Filip Forsberg would make his triumphant return to the lineup, but that didn’t happen:
How fitting to have the most-hated team by the majority of Predators fans come to Nashville to start the push towards the playoffs, and a division title. This looked like a trap game heading into it. The Blackhawks are a last-place team on paper, but they’re dangerous if they sneak into the playoff field. They’re a wounded animal looking to survive. A team that’s made the playoffs in nine-straight seasons and in jeopardy of finally missing out.
The Predators came out soft, while the Blackhawks came out aggressive and playing like it was Game 1 of the playoffs. Let’s dive deep into how it unfolded.
Chicago throws the first big punch of the game to make it 1-0. It comes on their first registered shot of the game, and off a Predators turnover. Juuse Saros has no chance at stopping this shot from Chicago’s David Kampf. The sloppy passing by the Predators really sets the tone in this period. Very little offensive flow or set ups in Chicago’s zone.
You can’t be too worried when the Predators fall behind in the first period. They’re clearly a team that can come from behind, especially when it’s early. Defensively they did settle down a bit. The period ends with a flurry of shots from the Predators, including two shots from Kevin Fiala. Anton Forsberg shows early glimpses of the night he’s about to have by keeping the Predators off the board.
You don’t feel great about trailing 1-0 to the Blackhawks, but the Predators did show life at the end of the first. You’re playing a last place team and a goaltender who is giving up three goals per game.
Kyle Turris changes the tone when he nets his first goal in 11 games. We’ve been waiting on Turris to wake up offensively, so hopefully this goal is a sign of things to come. It comes thanks to Craig Smith scooping up the puck in Chicago’s zone and getting it to Scott Hartnell, who finds Turris for the goal. It was pretty, and the Predators get the equalizer.
This is where Forsberg takes over for Chicago. The Predators had their chances to take the lead and really get the crowd going. Instead, Forsberg keeps the crowd on edge by keeping this game tied up. With momentum hanging in the balance, the Blackhawks snatch it back. We haven’t seen Saros give up too many ugly goals, but he gives up one here. Vinnie Hinostroza gets a slapshot by Saros to make it 2-1. It was a tough save, but one that should’ve been stopped by Saros.
Forsberg makes a couple more saves to keep this game 2-1 heading into the final period. Still, you like the chances of the Predators coming back at this point.
The story truly becomes about Forsberg at this point, and not the injured Filip Forsberg for the Predators. Anton Forsberg makes several critical saves in the final frame to carry Chicago to this huge victory for them.
Nashville finally gets their first power play of the game with around eight minutes remaining. You felt this was the time they had to get the equalizer. Forsberg is stoning them left and right with the five-on-five, but a strong power play can beat the best goaltenders. Early on the chances were great, but I have to give Forsberg credit for stepping up big in this one.
In a game where the Predators hoped that Filip Forsberg would make his return, instead Anton Forsberg holds the Predators to just one goal and leaves a sour taste after returning from the All Star break. The results around the division make the loss even worse as both St. Louis and Winnipeg get wins.
Chad’s Three Stars
Third Star: Juuse Saros
Saros gives up two goals, but I’m not putting the first one on him. A horrible turnover leads to Saros having very little time to react. He still finishes with a .933 save percentage with 29 saves. The Predators have to give more goal support.
Second Star: Vinnie Hinostroza
Not who you expect to see make an impact for the Blackhawks. Hinostroza scores the eventual game-winning goal while also chipping in on the first goal with an assist. Your usual Chicago suspects had little impact on this outcome.
First Star: Anton Forsberg
What a game from Forsberg. He outshines Saros by stopping more shots and helping a one-goal lead stand up. The Predators threw everything they had at Forsberg late, and he stood tall. I have to admit I didn’t expect that from him. If this is a sign of things to come, then Chicago has a chance to sneak into the playoffs and possibly do what Nashville did last season.