NASHVILLE—Any notion that a depleted opponent would become so demoralized as to provide a Tennessee waltz for the Blackhawks vanished Friday night.
The Nashville Predators started Game 2 of this tournament without Mike Fisher, a certified leader up front. Then they lost Shea Weber, a rock on defense. He eats minutes like Duncan Keith eats minutes, but might be gone for the series.
This revolting development for a largely yellow-clad crowd in Bridgestone Arena occurred just about the time Patrick Kane scored a tying goal that appeared to have been achieved with five other Chicago skaters on the ice, or one too many. There’s a photograph out there of the celebration featuring happy young men in white sweaters, and honesty compels us to report it seems overly populated.
However, the Predators not only got mad, they got even in the playoffs. Craig Smith scored four or so minutes after Kane, and then the Predators raked Corey Crawford for three more in the third – including a pair within 32 seconds – for a 6-2 rout. By then, you could have sworn it was Nashville that had too many men on the ice.
Head Coach Joel Quenneville offered that his Blackhawks arrived in Music City seeking a split, secured that Wednesday night in dramatic double overtime fashion, and thus became greedy.
Whether “greedy” accurately covers his team’s approach is up for discussion. The Blackhawks did some good. Patrick Sharp, a postseason poster boy, scored with a clever move off a nice feed from Niklas Hjalmarsson. Kane – we should all be as rusty as he – was sent onward by Brent Seabrook, even if the sequence could have been overruled.
But the Blackhawks yielded 35 shots and a spate of odd-man rushes while fanning on a chance to back the Predators into an 0-2 predicament for Sunday’s Game 3 at the United Center. And who will be behind the mask for Coach Q? He said, “We’ll see.” Crawford, yanked after surrendering three in 20 minutes Wednesday night, confessed that this week’s dossier has been “pretty frustrating.”
All goalies deal with these ugly patches, however, and Quenneville’s decision about whom to start in Game 2 was not an either-or proposition but a “no brainer.” To sit Crawford Friday night would imply that he was at fault Wednesday night when, in fact, he endured hockey’s version of solitary confinement – no small feat on a 200 by 85 foot stage.
Meanwhile, Scott Darling bedeviled his former organization. It was with the Milwaukee Admirals, Nashville’s farm club, that Darling caught the eye of Blackhawks Vice President/General Manager Stan Bowman. Now, of course, the Predators’ backup goalie, Carter Hutton, is via the Blackhawks’ pipeline.
As the Marco Polo of goalies, Darling knows people everywhere. He spent some time in a lot of zip codes. Thursday night, Darling went to dinner here with yet another buddy. Not the Wheeling Nailers’ teammate with whom he shared a log cabin in the woods of West Virginia. Someone else.