Goalkeepers turn out to be the difference in the Hawks’ loss to the Preds, which originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
NASHVILLE – The Blackhawks had a tough hand in 2022 after postponing two straight games right into the holiday break – four if you count the two before that. They hadn’t played a hockey game in exactly two weeks and were preparing to face a New Year’s Day Nashville Predators team that opened the competition with a 7-1-1 record in their last nine. matches.
What made it worse? Marc-André Fleury and Kevin Lankinen were placed on COVID-19 protocol five days apart, forcing the Blackhawks to recall Collin Delia and Arvid Soderblom from the AHL. They even gave Rockford IceHogs goaltender Cale Morris a contract in the NHL on Friday so the team would have an insurance policy for their taxi team.
Unsurprisingly, the goalie turned out to be the difference in Chicago’s 6-1 loss to the Predators on Saturday at Bridgestone Arena.
Juuse Saros, who leads all goaltenders in quality starts (six) this season, according to Sportlogiq, stopped 37 of 38 shots for a .973 save percentage. He continues to be turned off against Chicago in his NHL career.
On the other hand, Delia allowed three goals on seven shots in the first period before being retired for Soderblom, who allowed three goals on 18 in relief on his NHL debut.
“I’m never going to throw a goalie under the bus,” said interim head coach Derek King. “I can’t fault these guys at all. If you look at the pre-game scoresheet, they haven’t had a game in the NHL, so they walked into this building, it’s tough.
You could argue that the Blackhawks were the better team. Quite a strong one, in fact.
The Blackhawks had 9:15 offensive zone possession time, 71 shooting attempts and 30 scoring chances, according to Natural Stat Trick. The Predators had 5:25 of attacking zone possession time, 52 shooting attempts and 24 scoring chances.
“We did a lot of good things,” said Seth Jones. “We had almost 40 shots on goal, the power play was working pretty well. He just didn’t want to come in tonight. We can correct some of our defensive mistakes. Some of the Grade A chances they got, they scored, and we didn’t. Combine power-play goals for them, that’s a bit of the game. “
On the power play in particular, the Blackhawks had 24 shot attempts, 12 shots on goal and 11 scoring chances on four occasions. They did everything except score.
“We were moving it around pretty well,” Jones said. “For the power play that’s struggling this year, it’s one of the best games we’ve had overall over four power plays. “
Frustration finally boiled over in the third period when Patrick Kane smacked his stick on the bench after a shift.
“They were getting frustrated,” King said. “I was trying to calm them down, like you looked good. A lot of times if you didn’t look like this is when you get a little frustrated, but when you look good. like that, you I have to stay with. “
The Blackhawks are heartened by the effort after a two-week layoff, but are obviously not happy with the outcome. Points are too valuable at this point.
The Blackhawks will have the opportunity to return to the winning column on Sunday against Calgary, and they’ll be in another big test while they wait for Fleury and Lankinen to return. No team has a better team save percentage than the Flames at .922, led by Jacob Markstrom.
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