Photo Credit: John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images
Nashville’s playoff hopes may be all but a pipe dream now after a 1-0 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks during a 2pm matinee tilt at Bridgestone Arena.
Ray Emery stopped all 20 shots he faced and the Hawks received a goal from Bryan Bickell to put the Predators 14 points away from playoff contention elimination, by either separation of points gained by the 8th place team or by loss of points from the Predators themselves.
On a day where it seemed like the entire Chicago Blackhawks fan-base migrated down from the Windy City and invaded Nashville, the Predators could ill-afford to go down early in the game. Unfortunately, that was the case this afternoon.
“Obviously you want to get the first goal. It was a stupid mistake, we got a little excited on the pinch, and it cost us. Yeah, it hurts, but it’s a long game and there are a lot of mistakes. We just gotta find a way to get a goal,” said Predators defenseman Hal Gill, who became the first 38-year old to play on Nashville’s roster with his birthday today.
It wasn’t a matter of Chicago playing better than Nashville today, but more about a puck possession battle between the two squads. Chicago made the most of their chances, including off their first shot. The Predators couldn’t bury the same chances on the other end, a story they’ve been all too familiar with this season.
Emery, although shaky and looking back on more than one occasion after a stop, played solid behind a smothering Chicago lineup that kept Nashville out of their zone for the majority of play.
“They’re a good team, they come back and hit hard. Obviously you want to put the puck and pressure down in their end. They are good, they’re a good team. We have to limit their time in our end and move it in transition into theirs,” said Gill.
Although Nashville isn’t entirely without hope for the remainder of the season, it may be a case of bad luck and missed opportunities that not only describe this game, but the entire condensed season.
“I think you create a lot of your luck. We did some good things to make chances, but we gotta work a little bit harder to get that luck. You can sit back and say ‘Aww we were unlucky,’ but that doesn’t cut it,” said Gill.
The Predators face these same Chicago Blackhawks tomorrow night at the United Center, where they’ve played well as of late, but haven’t seemed to be able to find any sustained success against them the entire season.
Nashville has lost their previous four, dating back to last season, after winning four straight against the Hawks before that. The Predators have been shut-out twice in their past five games, only scoring six goals in that same span. While the effort has been there, the conversion hasn’t.
“We can’t make excuses for ourselves. We have to find a way to score goals. Tonight’s over with now, we gotta move on to tomorrow,” said Predators captain Shea Weber.
With the season hanging in the balance and fading away fast, Nashville needs to sustain some type of positive momentum for the remaining games this season and either have a miraculously entry into the playoffs or begin to play spoiler for other teams searching for a Top 8 position.