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Hawks see need to net more 'dirty' goals

by Brian Hedger
CHICAGO -- If Friday night's series opener was any indication of how tough it's going to be for the Chicago Blackhawks to score against Nashville, maybe they should all get mullets.
All week, Hawks star forward Patrick Kane was the brunt of his teammates' "Joe Dirt" jokes after he chose to wear a throwback 1980s-style mullet for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. After a 4-1 loss to the defensive-oriented Predators, it looks like Kane's joke haircut actually has more meaning to the stunned Hawks -- who were frustrated by Nashville's neutral zone trap and were turned away on all but one shot by 6-foot-5 goalie Pekka Rinne.
"We didn't have too many second and third opportunities like we would have liked," said Hawks forward Patrick Sharp, who led Chicago with six shots and had two golden opportunities thwarted by a Rinne poke check and a goal post. "The goal that we did score was just a simple shot from a guy going for the net. That's a playoff goal right there. We've got to get gritty and dirtier and find a way to get more of those."
He was referring to Kane's 10th career playoff goal with 9:43 left in the second period that put the Hawks up 1-0 in a tight defensive battle. Kane scooped a rebound off Sharp's shot from the left circle and buried the puck into an open net.
It was exactly the kind of goal the Hawks have to score more of against the frustrating Predators and their ice-clogging 1-2-2 trapping defense. Patience truly is a virtue for any Nashville opponent, and that's not something that comes naturally to the talent-laden Hawks -- who want to possess the puck and be aggressive offensively.
"We created some chances," Hawks center John Madden said. "We've just got to hang around the net and get a little grittier."
Madden played 10 seasons in New Jersey before coming to Chicago this past offseason. On Friday, he got a taste of what it must've felt like for the teams New Jersey beat in winning the Stanley Cup. After J.P. Dumont's two third-period goals gave Nashville a lead, the Preds used their stifling defense to close it out.
Dumont's first goal early in the third was more luck than skill -- another telltale sign of defensive, playoff hockey. He flipped a puck from long distance toward Hawks goaltender Antti Niemi, who missed it and heard it clank off the inside of the post into the net for a 1-1 tie.
"It changed the game," ex-Hawks forward Steve Sullivan said. "(Chicago's goal) wasn't very pretty either. Playoff hockey, there's not very many pretty goals. It's a lot of bump and grind and a lot of goals in the blue paint. You've got to be willing to go in there and sacrifice yourself at both ends of the rink."
That's exactly what Hawks coach Joel Quenneville talked about all week long and what he'll likely talk about again after today's practice. The only thing that's changed is the pressure on Chicago to even the series on Sunday.
"The next game’s going to be tougher and harder," an agitated Quenneville said Friday night. "(Game 1) represents the way Nashville plays every game no matter (who) the opponent is, and that’s what we’re going to see again. They play a hard game and they play simple."

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