The Nashville Predators tried to derail the Chicago Blackhawks and hand them their first regulation loss at the Bridgestone Arena.
It looked like a race between thoroughbreds and plow horses.
And the thoroughbreds ran away with it.
The Blackhawks won 3-0 and were never seriously challenged by the Predators. In fact, through two periods, the Predators could muster just 7 shots on net.
Pekka Rinne got no help from the offense, and was under siege most of the night. After a scoreless first period, the Hawks first goal came on a brutal clearing attempt by Roman Josi, who instead of clearing the puck with his stick, tried to kick the puck out of the zone. Instead, he kicked the puck directly to Marcus Kruger, who beat a screened Rinne with a shot from the blue line.
The Hawks second goal came from a shot by Duncan Keith that hit Jonathan Toews in front of the net and re-directed past Rinne to make it 2-0 in the second period.
Patrick Kane got the Hawks third goal in the third period off a severe angle shot that hit Rinne on the inside of the leg and caromed into the goal. That is one that Rinne wanted back, but it really didn’t matter because the Predators were not going to seriously threaten the Hawks.
Corey Crawford didn’t have to work hard and make many quality saves. The Hawks out shot the Predators 27-17 for the game, and the quality of shots was for the most not good. Nick Spaling had a glorious chance in the first period as he got the puck behind Crawford and slid it off the post, but the Predators rarely had another good scoring opportunity.
Here are some observations:
1. It is time to re-think the line combinations. The top line of Mike Fisher, Martin Erat, and Sergei Kostitsyn combined for 2 shots, all by Fisher. The second line of David Legwand, Colin Wilson, and Gabriel Bourque had 4 shots, 3 by Legwand and 1 by Wilson. The production of these two lines has to be significantly better, and right now they are not clicking. Kostitsyn has been dropped down to the third line earlier this season, and it is time to consider making this move again.
2. How would I re-structure the lines? Fisher, Wilson and Bourque on the first line. Spaling, Erat, and Yip on the second line. Drop Legwand to the third line and put Kostitsyn and whichever winger is playing best on that line. It is time to reconsider changing the line combinations to jump start this offense.
3. The fact is that the forwards on this team are grinders and solid blue collar players. There is nothing wrong with that, and they have endeared themselves to their fans with their work ethic. Tonight was stark proof that lacking offensive dynamism, this team is going to struggle mightily against the elite and talented teams in the League. David Legwand is not going to elevate his game and is realistically a third or fourth line center. Marty Erat is a 15 -20 goal scorer. Colin Wilson and Gabriel Bourque have potential, but it is unrealized. This is the way this team has been built, and the fact is that to win the Cup, a team has to have elite talent. This team does not.
4.That being said, I continue to be impressed with what Barry Trotz and the staff have done and continue to do to squeeze everything they can out of the talent they have been given. But if the Predators are going to win the ultimate prize, there must be a serious upgrade in offensive talent. Are you listening, David Poile?
The road doesn’t get any easier for the Predators as they face some very talented teams coming in to the Bridgestone Arena.
The Predators have to bring their maximum effort and play their system flawlessly.
They don’t have the talent to do otherwise.
My three stars:
1. Marcus Kruger
2. Jonathan Toews
3. Patrick Kane
About the Author: A native Nashvillian that grew up with minor league hockey, I'm now a devoted Predators fan and NHL follower. I have had the privilege of allowing my children to grow up watching the Predators and seeing the joy on their face when they are at a game. By day, I am a partner in an independent investment management company in the Nashville area. I played collegiate football and graduated from the University of South Carolina and graduated from the LSU graduate School of Banking. So yes, there are real true southern hockey fans in these non-traditional markets.