Coming into Wednesday night, the Blackhawks had one win in the month of December — their first game of the month. They had scored more than once in a game twice in the entire month. But the Nashville Predators aren’t a great team, and Chicago was desperate so this one went into the “anything can happen… right?” category from the jump.
When the Blackhawks scored twice in 37 seconds late in the second period, it felt like the world was likely ending. It didn’t; the Preds tied the game before the end of the period because we aren’t allowed to have nice things like leads. But it was nice while it lasted. Two quick goals in the third period sunk the Blackhawks’ hopes of a win in white on home ice.
Star 1: Connor Murphy
Murphy scored the Blackhawks’ first goal of the night and picked up the only assist on MacKenzie Entwistle‘s goal on the following shift that gave the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead. Without Jake McCabe in the lineup after he got hurt in the middle of the first period, Murphy was one of the three remaining veterans on the blue line. He was also credited with a team-high six blocked shots and four hits in a strong, active game.
Star 2: Patrick Kane
Kane was creating scoring chances throughout the first two periods, but his linemates just couldn’t quite finish. The story of the season has been a shank, broken stick or post and Kane had all three take an assist away from him in this game at least once. He was making Kaner magic, but wasn’t getting the payoff. You can tell Kaner is frustrated he isn’t finishing right now, but get the sense that at some point the dam is going to break and he’s going to go on a tear. Unfortunately, this was not that night. Kane was credited with a team-leading eight shots on net in the loss.
Star 3: Ian Mitchell
Mitchell played his best game with the Blackhawks of the season tonight. With McCabe missing from the lineup, the Blackhawks’ coaches could have easily asked Murphy, Caleb Jones and Jack Johnson to skate heavy minutes and buried one or both of the young defensemen. But Mitchell continued to get on the ice and he performed well, both at even strength and on the second power play unit. He finished the night skating better than 20 minutes for the first time in the NHL this year and was credited with two shots on net and three blocks. If we can get this version of Mitchell more often, Caleb Jones might have a hard time getting back on the ice (of course, McCabe’ injury might change that discussion).
- Jake McCabe took a stick to the face/eye area at 9:54 into the first period. He went to the room and the Blackhawks received a double power play for the high stick. Chicago did nothing with the four minutes; McCabe did not return for the remainder of the game. Which left Chicago with five defensemen, two of which were Mitchell and Isaak Phillips. McCabe was ruled out for the rest of the game before the third period started.
- Phillips was on the ice for the Preds’ goal in the closing seconds of the second period. The play was a mess in coverage, something the Blackhawks have struggled with at times during this losing stretch. Unfortunately, this time it came with an incredibly rare lead late in a period the Blackhawks dominated. He finished his NHL season debut with five hits (tied with Murphy for the team lead) and two shots on net. The coaches wanted to see him play a physical game and he did precisely that.
- The Blackhawks’ second goal in the second period marked the first time they had a lead in 23 periods of hockey. That is, as the kids say, not good. The lead lasted 3:15 before the Predators tied it with five whole seconds remaining in the second period. Which sucked because the Blackhawks had a ton of good chances that they just couldn’t finish before the two went in.
- Tyler Johnson returned to the lineup and had a decent night. He was able to skate almost 19 minutes in the game and won three of five faceoffs. If he can be an engaged member of the top six and give the Hawks in that 17-19 minute range most nights, the team’s offense will benefit.
- Roman Josi became the Preds’ all-time points leader in the third period. He’s really a terrific defenseman. They’ll probably hang a banner for him at some point.