Chicago Blackhawks

Quick Hits from Blackhawks-Predators Game 4: Finished too soon

Quick Hits from Blackhawks-Predators Game 4: Finished too soon

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Blackhawks’ latest playoff run is over before it really started. A hungry Nashville Predators team had their way with the Blackhawks, claiming a 4-1 victory in Game 4 and sweeping the Blackhawks out of the postseason.

As Jonathan Toews said, you can point out the Blackhawks’ problems but you also have to recognize how well Nashville played in this series – “I think it’s insulting to not give that team credit for how well they played and how well they played us specifically. I think they were relentless. Anytime we seem to start to get things going they found ways to stymie our momentum or our offense,” he said.

Still, it’s a surprise that the team that was hoisting the Stanley Cup less than two years ago is out after the first round for the second consecutive year. But that’s the way it goes. We have a few more notables to cover, so let’s get to those in our Quick Hits.

What worked: The Predators’ approach. Stick tap to the Nashville Predators: they were the better team in this series. They didn’t even toy with the notion of extending this series in Game 4, coming out with the same vigor and all-around game that got them their 3-0 lead in the first place. From Pekka Rinne on out the Predators weren’t concerned with their history against the Blackhawks. They were too busy writing a new version.

[VIVID SEATS: Get your Blackhawks playoff tickets right here!] 

What Didn’t Work: Anything the Blackhawks tried. Line changes, playing Patrick Kane every opportunity they could, puck possession, you name it. The Blackhawks didn’t do anything well on Thursday night in a game they absolutely had to have. Their start was so-so and a late push yielded better scoring opportunities but only one goal, and by that time they were down 3-0. The Blackhawks just didn’t have it, so they’re heading home early.

Star of the game: Roman Josi. He was giving the Blackhawks a hard enough time with his defensive game. On Thursday he also hurt them with his offense. Josi scored twice and was stellar throughout. You could throw Viktor Arvidsson in the mix, too. Arvidsson had a goal and an assist (he didn’t get a point on Josi’s first goal but he was in front of the net on it). Arvidsson’s great regular season continues in the playoffs.

He Said It: “It’s tough enough to lose a series and fall short. It’s a whole different story to lose four straight and get swept like we did. I think we’ve got guys in this room that have experienced the highs of going all the way. I think aside from what it would feel like to miss the playoffs, especially with the potential in this room, this has to be the next worst feeling for sure. So … yeah, again, not much to say right now.” Jonathan Toews on the Blackhawks’ early exit.

By the Numbers:

3 – Goals for the Blackhawks in four games against the Predators.

1993 – The last time the Blackhawks were swept in a postseason series before suffering the same fate on Thursday.

23:43 – Time on ice for Patrick Kane, the most of any Blackhawks player in Game 4.

123 – Shots stopped, out of 126 shots faced, for Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne.

Brandon Saad back in veteran-like form for Blackhawks

saad-924.jpg
USA TODAY

Brandon Saad back in veteran-like form for Blackhawks

Brandon Saad seems like more of an NHL veteran than he is. From his size to his composed style of play to what he’s already accomplished at this level, Saad gives off that vibe that he’s been around much longer than he actually has. Even his teammates forget that.

“You think he may be 27, 28 years old. He’s only 24 years old. He’s still a young kid,” Patrick Kane said. “Guys like [Ryan] Hartman and [Vinnie] Hinostroza are only 23 so he’s not much older than them, even though he might seem it. He’s got a great future.”

Saad’s future is once again being played out in Chicago and he couldn’t feel better about returning. Back in a familiar city and a familiar spot on the ice – alongside Jonathan Toews – Saad is ready to reignite the top line with Toews and Richard Panik. Outside of some scrimmages the line hasn’t gotten much of a chance to see where things are yet – their first preseason game was against Columbus on Saturday. But Saad said things are coming together.

“It was still [Toews’] first game back and my first time with him but we’re pretty familiar with each other. I don’t think it’ll take long at all,” he said following the team’s first practice at Notre Dame on Sunday. “Any time you come from a five-month summer into the season your timing’s always a little off, and then with a new player going back to a familiar player, I think that’s the biggest thing.”

Toews recognized Saad’s desire to be a big part of this team when the left wing was a rookie. That drive hasn’t diminished.

“His rookie year I kept saying you could see that intangible quality in him, that he wanted to get better every single night,” Toews said. “You see players with raw, physical talent and ability but don’t take it upon themselves to be one of the guys every single night. Saader was showing that right away and you could tell he was just going to get better and better.”

The powerful part of Saad’s game the Blackhawks missed the most was evident in his first preseason contest back with him, against Detroit on Thursday. The Red Wings didn’t have their top squad but Saad was nevertheless dominant, recording a hat trick in which all three goals were within a few feet of the net. The top line has had that element here and there the past two seasons but no doubt felt Saad’s absence.

“He’s a high-end player or potential player that should develop into a regular scorer and who knows what he could do,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I still think there’s room where maybe he could go to a better level as far as production goes, because he gets so many looks around the net with his quickness and the way he protects the puck and the way he can shoot it.”

Saad reaching another level. Again, you see what he’s done so far and you forget that he’s only 24. He still has a lot of time – and potential – ahead of him.

“He’s stepping in here knowing he’ll be one of those guys heavily keyed upon for us,” Toews said. “And he’s ready for that and excited for it.”

Five Things from Blackhawks-Blue Jackets: Shots and slashes

Five Things from Blackhawks-Blue Jackets: Shots and slashes

It’s preseason: you don’t need a lot of build-up. Let’s just delve right in, shall we?

1. Lots of shots, but…

The same Joonas Korpisalo that the Blackhawks’ youngsters scored five goals against on Tuesday was on top of his game on Saturday. The Blackhawks peppered him with 54 shots but only two got through, and the second was a 6-on-4 power-play goal in the final two minutes.

“I thought we could have gotten a little more traffic in front of him," Nick Schmaltz said. "I thought we were playing along the outside. I mean we had some great looks. He made some big saves. Some nights you get the bounces and some nights you don’t.”

2. Bérubé’s Blackhawks debut.

Jean-François Bérubé had a tough sequence early in the second period, when he gave up two goals in a 28-second span. This was against a Columbus team that didn’t send many of their top players. He also didn’t see a ton of action in this one; the Blue Jackets fired just 21 shots his way.

3. Growing pains.

Alex DeBrincat had his up and down moments on Saturday night. His turnover led to Columbus’ first goal, he took a slashing penalty and he fought the puck quite a bit. You still saw glimpses of that skill, though, especially with his quick release. Hey, he’s a 19-year-old guy getting his first taste of the NHL. Nights like this are going to happen.

“We all make mistakes,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “You gotta be safe in certain areas and you learn from that.”

4. Slash-o-meter.

Four more were called on Saturday night. Don’t be surprised if that number starts dwindling sooner rather than later, though, because the edict has apparently changed already. Sportsnet’s John Shannon reported earlier on Saturday that the league told officials to ease up on slashing and faceoff violations. But we all figure that’s going to happen once the regular season begins anyway, right?

5. Notre Dame bound.

The destination is familiar but the Blackhawks threw it into their second week of camp this season. It’ll be bonding time for the Blackhawks, who will send a smaller group for several practices there this week. Quenneville figures it’ll be a productive time. “We’ll get some bonding in, play golf together, have a nice outing, couple of road games and a nice campus.”