It must have been a cloudy night in Nashville because the stars were nowhere to be found for the Chicago Blackhawks in their 4-3 shootout loss to the Predators.
On an evening where Jack Skille scored twice, Viktor Stalberg once, and Bryan Bickell along with Nick Boynton provided a physical presence, the Hawks big names couldn’t contribute at the most important of times.
Those stars had chances to improve on a 3-2 lead with four consecutive power-play chances, including an extended 5 on 3 near the end of the second period. That fourth power play came in the third period and just minutes before Nashville tied the game, but the Hawks couldn’t dent the back of the net.
“It would be nice to get that two-goal lead,” Joel Quenneville said on Comcast Sportsnet after the game. “We seem to have a stretch now where we just can’t get ahead when we get an opportunity to distance ourselves to put us in a good spot. That was certainly the differential when you look at it in the end.”
The last time the Hawks had a two-goal lead in a game, at any point, was Oct. 30. That’s six full games since they led by two goals.
The hockey gods gave the Hawks stars one more chance in the shootout, but Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Patrick Sharp all missed on their attempts sealing the win for Nashville and completing the quietest of nights for the biggest names.
At least Quenneville recognized the contributions of his fourth line trio.
“I thought that line had a good game,” Quenneville said. “I thought Jack [Skille] had particularly a real good game as well. That was nice.”
A question worth pondering is if some of the secondary players had such good games, why weren’t they on the ice for overtime or even the shootout?
Goal scorers Skille and Stalberg didn’t get a shift but Tomas Kopecky got one. In 13:58 of ice time Kopecky didn’t record a shot but had two blocked, and then nothing else next to his name on the scoresheet. He drew a penalty when crosschecked in front of the Predators net but was also a minus-1 for the night. Skille had two goals, three shots, one hit, and was plus-2 in 11:46 on the ice, but he didn’t see it again after regulation.
Who is on the ice and who isn’t is a small point compared to the bigger picture. Yet again the Hawks can’t close out a game and have to rely on role players and newcomers to get them a point in the standings.
Before the season began, many wondered how well the newcomers would play. Taken with the expectations for the two groups of players, it would be hard to argue the Hawks stars have come closer to living up to what’s expected compared to those role players.
Right now, lamenting who left the Hawks this offseason takes a backseat to how the ones that stayed have played.
The answer is not good enough.
Hitting the Hammer: Niklas Hjalmarsson had nine blocked shots in the game including several during a Nashville overtime power play.
Faceoff mastery: Toews won 17 of 27 faceoffs. The rest of the team won 15 combined.