The Runner Sports

Chicago Blackhawks Swept By Nashville Predators – A Series Recap

Thursday night, the Chicago Blackhawks became the first #1 seed in the history of the National Hockey League to be swept in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

That’s a doozy of a way to kick off a series recap. Oh, but that’s not all. The Blackhawks were swept for the first time since 1993, when the Jeremy Roenick-led team was blanked in the first round by the St. Louis Blues.

50 wins in the regular season. 3 goals in the playoffs. Proof positive that the hockey atmosphere is different once you start playing for Lord Stanley’s Cup. Chicago simply didn’t have anything in the tank to keep up with the pace, aggression, and skill of the Nashville Predators.

Three months ago, some were wondering if this Nashville team even had it together enough to make the playoffs, let alone take on a so-called juggernaut like Chicago. Nashville lost four of five to the Chicago Blackhawks in the regular season, allowing five goals in three of the five meetings.

Well, the Predators didn’t even allow five goals in the entire First Round series and a lot of credit needs to be given to that team. Undoubtedly, starting goaltender Pekka Rinne was the 6’5” brick wall that Preds supporters expected him to be but many pundits had less faith in him to keep Chicago out of the net.

Remember: the Chicago Blackhawks had six 20-plus-goal scorers this season — almost seven, as Ryan Hartman was just one shy of that milestone. Of those six, or basically seven, phenomenal scorers, Rinne allowed goals to just two of them: Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, the latter of whom got likely the least important playoff goal of his career late in the 3rd period of game four.

Rinne finished the series with 123 saves on 126 shots, a brilliant .976 save percentage. He didn’t allow a goal to Marian Hossa. Or Richard Panik. Or Artemi Panarin. Or Artem Anisimov. The list goes on and on.

And it wasn’t just Rinne who got it done for Nashville. The team defense was phenomenal, taking away the neutral zone and forcing Chicago to play the dump-and-chase game for long stretches, something that the team never looked comfortable doing, always seemingly a step too slow.

Slow on offense, and slow on defense. Chicago couldn’t keep up with the pace of Nashville’s forwards. Center Filip Forsberg finished the series with a pair of goals and three assists, while winger Viktor Arvidsson had two and two. Kevin Fiala had a pair of goals, including the overtime winner in game three. As a whole, the Predators tallied 13 goals on 124 shots in the series, but don’t blame Chicago’s netminder for those.

This series cannot and should not fall on Corey Crawford’s shoulders. For all intents and purposes, he was fantastic as usual against Nashville. There will be folks posing questions like “Why didn’t Coach Q go with Scott Darling in game four?” or “Should we fire Q for not going with Darling at least once?” or “Whose Nashville Predators jersey should I order today?”

Regardless, the decision to keep the starter and one of the most experienced players on this Blackhawks team in for all four games was the right one. He stopped 111 of 123 shots, finishing with a .902 save percentage for the series. Yes, not his best numbers, until you realize just how little the team was doing to keep the puck out of his zone. Crawford was the high point of this series for Chicago and should be respected as such.

We could go on about how this is the most disappointing season of the Kane/Toews era and, frankly, it has a lot to do with how the two team leaders played, but it’s not really necessary. If you saw one game in this series, you saw them all, and that should make you nervous. The fact that there was little to no fight, no adjustment that made much difference, and no skater that could light a fire under this team essentially nullifies the second 50-win season in franchise history.

For the second straight year, Chicago’s season ends in the first round. Five months of waiting, tinkering, and personnel changes — remember, the Vegas expansion draft is this summer — await a team that, two weeks ago, was the favorite to win the Stanley Cup.

No “four Cups in eight years” for this Chicago Blackhawks team and, as the stars like Toews and Kane have another year added to their playing careers, you start to wonder if this era of the team has enough left to make that fourth one happen.

Tyler Berry

Tyler Berry

Tyler is a digital marketing coordinator moonlighting as a sports writer. He is an avid Indianapolis Colts, Indiana Pacers and Chicago White Sox fan, and has followed the Blackhawks even before Kane and Toews were drafted.
Tyler Berry