The Chicago Blackhawks faced off against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday, looking to rebound after a lackluster performance in the first matchup of their two-game series. However, despite producing a much-improved effort, the Blackhawks came up just one goal short of a victory for the second time in as many nights. Nashville was able to best the Hawks by a score of 2-1 in a shootout.
“Much, much better effort tonight,” Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said after the game. “I thought it was a hard-fought game, not a lot going on offensively both ways for the first two periods, but I liked that we were tight. The third period opened up a little bit. Obviously, they got the goal there. We had them in a really good spot in transition, and then we turned the puck over, they go the other way. But I thought we responded well.”
Lankinen Stays Hot
On the bright side, the Blackhawks picked up a point for the fifth consecutive game on Wednesday, much in part to Kevin Lankinen’s superb showing in net. In just his fourth NHL start, Lankinen, 25, stopped 41 of 42 Predators shots, including 20 in the third period alone. The rookie netminder now has an incredible .931 save percentage and 2.18 goals-against average on the season.
“As a team, we played better tonight,” Lankinen said. “It was too bad we couldn’t get the win. We had good chances in the overtime. Maybe another night we get a bounce and it goes in. But for me, I felt confident. I felt good out there.”
Lankinen, a native of Helsinki, Finland, has been the Blackhawks’ best goaltender through eight games by a wide margin. In his last three starts, Lankinen has made 91 saves and allowed just four goals total. It’s safe to say that ‘Lanky’ will likely be back in net for the Blackhawks on Friday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“You love the little swagger that he has,” Colliton added on Lankinen. “It’ll transfer to the team.”
Hagel’s Best NHL Game
With the Blackhawks rolling out 11 forwards and seven defensemen in the lineup, Brandon Hagel received a career-high 15:50 of ice time and certainly made the most of it. Once again, Hagel skated on the fourth line with David Kampf and Ryan Carpenter on Wednesday, and the trio teamed up to tie the score 1-1 for the Blackhawks near the mid-way point of the third period.
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“He’s sure playing well and it’s exciting,” Colliton said. “He’s a second-year pro here and he’s really taken hold of the opportunity and does a lot of things you like, just pressure on the puck, great forechecker, forces turnovers. He is relentless.”
Hagel was arguably the Blackhawks’ most noticeable skater in this two-game series vs. Nashville, recording an assist, three takeaways, one blocked shot, and several controlled defensive-zone exits. Hagel also had shifts with Patrick Kane and Dylan Strome on Wednesday, getting his first look in a top-six role with the Blackhawks.
“He’s done a lot of nice things with the puck, too. He’s skated it from D-zone, entered clean, made some plays. He made a real nice play on the goal. And there’ more there.”
The Fact of the Matter…
While the Blackhawks are currently in the midst of a five-game point streak, three of those contests have resulted in overtime or shootout losses. Colliton and the Hawks would have preferred to turn those into victories, especially in a shortened 56-game regular season where each point is all the more crucial.
It’s also worth noting that the Blackhawks have won just twice so far through eight games, with both victories coming at the United Center against the lowly Detroit Red Wings. The Hawks have also yet to pick up a win on the road in 2021, with an 0-2-3 record in five contests.
Yes, a five-game point streak is impressive (especially without Toews, Dach, Nylander, etc.), but the fact of the matter is that the Blackhawks record should say 2-6, not 2-3-3.