This week, the Nashville Predators have played two games against divisional opponents. Both of those games have been against the top two teams in the division, the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks. In those two games, Nashville has only come away with one point. Thursday night, the Predators fell to the Blackhawks by a score of 3-2.
Overall, Nashville had a much better effort throughout the game against Chicago than they did with Minnesota on Tuesday night. Up until midway through the third period, the Predators looked like they could win the game. Even though the team was outshot 16-6 in the first period, it didn’t look like the Blackhawks had Nashville on its heels.
“The effort was there,” said Roman Josi. “Everybody’s playing hard. We’re trying, but it’s not getting us wins so we’ve got to do something different to get some wins. I thought we started well five on five. Had a lot of chances.”
Following a goal by Artem Anisimov at 13:19 of the first, Filip Forsberg quickly answered for the Predators just 35 seconds later, and the game was notched at 1-1 until Mike Fisher put Nashville ahead on the power play. At that point, the Predators had the momentum. Then, at 9:46 of the third period, Bridgestone Arena was in an uproar when Craig Smith was whistled for tripping. During the play, Craig Smith was skating near the crease of goaltender Corey Crawford. During the play, Crawford stuck his leg out, catching Smith and they both fell.
— Thomas Willis (@TomAWillis) December 30, 2016
“He was definitely looking for it,” said Josi. “He did it before too. It goes fast out there. We have to make sure we’re better on the penalty kill. We got scored on twice, so we’ve got to make sure we kill those penalties.”
The other incident that Josi is referring to is the same type of play involving Crawford, but with Kevin Fiala. There wasn’t a call made on that play.
On if the call against Smith was the turning point of the game, head coach Peter Laviolette said it plain and simple.
“It turned on that.”
The Predators faced adversity following the call as the Blackhawks scored on the power play and then scored the go-ahead goal three minutes later. The team played well enough to, but couldn’t overcome the adversity of a situation they didn’t have as much control over.
“We played a great hockey game,” said Ryan Johansen. “We played a great team over there and made some plays. There were a couple of situations out there that you can’t control and there’s nothing we can do about, and that decided the game tonight so it was not about us and what we did.”
In all, the Predators took five penalties. While some were questionable, they need to play a smarter game and not give other teams the man advantage. Nashville did some very good things tonight when they controlled the pace of the game. It was another game where two youngsters put up a lot of shots on goal. Kevin Fiala registered eight shots on net and Viktor Arvidsson put five on net with five attempts blocked. While not every shot had a high scoring potential, they were still getting puck to the net to create an opportunity. And opportunity is what Nashville needs to take advantage of when they get them.
They’ll have to quickly move on as they face the St. Louis Blues Friday night in the second of a back-to-back before a three day break for the weekend.
“We can’t think to long about that game tonight,” said Josi. “We’ve got to look forward. It’s going to be another tough game tomorrow.”