Extremely well rested and very talented, the Chicago Blackhawks came into Bridgestone Arena Sunday night and delivered an impressive performance in defeating the Nashville Predators by a score of 3-0 in front of a sold out crowd.
One night after an overtime loss in St. Paul to the Minnesota Wild, the Predators could not find much room to generate a whole lot offensively Sunday, getting just 17 shots on Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford in the game. After only three shots in the first and four in the second, the Predators showed some flash in the third in putting ten shots on target.
Crawford had to be good but not great in earning his seventh win of the season between the pipes for the Blackhawks. His two best stops came in the third period when he turned aside a Mike Fisher one-timer from the right circle and soon thereafter denied Kevin Klein’s rush through the slot.
In his postgame press conference, head coach Barry Trotz noted that in order to score goals, his team was going to need to display more of the sandpaper-like effort they did during their recent four-game winning streak.
“Everything has to be gritty in this league,” Trotz said. “There are not very many pretty things. Patrick Kane can do something pretty. Patrick Kane doesn’t play for the Nashville Predators. If you look around the league, the top offensive players, you look at Jonathan Towes and Joe Thornton, they drive the net hard. That’s what it is. It is a working man’s league.”
With the victory, Chicago improved their league-best record to 10-0-2. Their record aside, the Predators felt it wasn’t so much what the Blackhawks did in the game, but what Nashville failed to do when it got the puck into the Chicago zone.
“I think always you have to give them credit, but at the same time, we weren’t getting pucks and bodies to the net,” Colin Wilson said. “We were playing an outskirts game and not getting to the interior. It is just a mentality, you want to get bodies there, a mentality of wanting to score, wanting to get into the interior positions, so it is nothing that you can practice, you just have to do it.”
Sunday’s game was Nashville’s third in four nights, and those games were on the heels of their recently completed seven-game road swing out west.
Was fatigue a factor?
“It looked like it for sure, but we have to be better, just smarter,” Fisher said. “When you are tired you have to use your mind a little bit better. We have to be better as a group.”
Predators captain Shea Weber agreed.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “We had five months off of whatever it was for the lockout. We should be in good enough shape and that shouldn’t be an excuse right now.”
Nashville will not practice Monday as the team prepares for home contests Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. With just one goal scored in the last two games, the Predators will try to find a way to solve their offensive funk and give goaltender Pekka Rinne a little run support before the San Jose Sharks visit Nashville Tuesday night.
“We just feel bad for Pekks,” Weber said. “He plays great every night and we can’t generate a whole lot. We are playing well defensively in some areas, but we are not generating anything offensively the last couple of games, so we have to try and figure something out.”