Hawks' play improves, but not enough

If the Chicago Blackhawks weren’t in the middle of an epic descent through the standings, Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to the Nashville Predators probably wouldn’t feel so bad.

The Hawks played well. Probably better than Nashville. The 32-19 shots-on-goal advantage would suggest that as would a review of the better scoring chances. But they still lost. And now they’ve dropped nine straight games.

“Tonight it looked like we were doing the things we wanted to do and we were in the right direction, get it to overtime and see what happens,” coach Joel Quenneville told reporters after the game. “That hurt.”

It hurt because finally the Hawks played with some emotion and did some things well defensively -- like killing off three Nashville power plays -- and still came up short.

“We still have to build off what we achieved tonight and go to New York with the same type of attitude,” Quenneville said. “We had more urgency in our game and more purpose in our game. That’s what it’s going to take to get out of it and stick with it and find a way.”

No fan is going to want to hear it, but Quenneville is right. When you have fallen in the game of confidence as far as the Hawks have, it’s hard to climb all the way back up in one swoop. Steps need to be taken. And they took one on Tuesday.

“Of all the losses we’ve had lately it was one of our better games,” Marian Hossa said.

Hossa broke out of his slump by scoring to tie the game in the third period. The Hawks were buzzing around Pekka Rinne all night and deserved that equalizing goal. But Ray Emery gave it right back when he couldn’t close his pads or get his stick down to stop a deflected point shot by Ryan Ellis.

"That’s one I really want to stop and it just hits off the defenseman,” Emery said. “I really have to stop that.”

It was just one of three shots the Predators had in the entire third period and just like that Emery’s night turned from alright to bad. He gave up three goals on 19 shots while all-world netminder Rinne gave up two on 32 shots. No matter where the shots came from it’s unacceptable as goaltending continues to be the Hawks' Achilles heel.

Having given up at least three goals in all nine games of the streak, Hawks’ netminders have not come close to stealing a game as Rinne probably just did for Nashville though he wasn’t voted a star of the game.

Either way, no matter how well the Hawks play, until one of their goalies can ‘wow’ the opponent as well as Hawks’ nation, the team might continue to come up short. Tuesday was the best game they’ve played since the first one after the all-star break. They can build off it as long as their goaltending lets them.


• Hossa scored his 21st goal of the season, earning his first point since the all-star break. Bryan Bickell had the Hawks other goal, his second in three games.

• The Hawks blocked 12 shots but just one came from a forward. Andrew Shaw had a chance for a block on the Predators second goal but missed on the opportunity.

• The Predators were held to under 20 shots for the first time since Nov. 26.