A team with a defense-first mentality like the Predators isn't expecting to light it up, but one area in which they could help themselves would be to connect on their dormant power play, which has failed on all five chances so far heading into Tuesday night's Game 3 (9 p.m. ET, VERSUS, TSN).
In Game 2 in particular, the Predators missed on all four chances in the 2-0 loss. A look at the statistics in their season series with Central Division rival Chicago does not make the picture any rosier: Nashville scored just once on 19 attempts.
The Blackhawks deserve some of the credit for that performance, as they ranked fourth in the League during the regular season in penalty killing at 85.3 percent.
Nashville rookie defenseman Cody Franson said it is difficult to make high-risk moves against Chicago because its penalty killers are top skill players (one pair is Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa) and the Blackhawks can make you pay at the other end of the ice. Chicago totaled a League-best 13 shorthanded goals this season.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said the penalty kill was a point of emphasis for his team entering the season, as Chicago ranked 18th in 2008-09 on the penalty kill (80.6 percent).
"Our penalty killers have done a real good job all year long, be it the guys up front that are killing, the defenseman paying attention to details, blocking shots, goaltending, key saves, timely saves, but that's been one of our strengths all year," Quenneville said. "Whether it's Johnny and Hoss together, that's been a new pair together. It gets them a little more time. These are top guys who can play offensively and defensively, get good reads. It's good that it keeps them in the game and it keeps them sharp ... Certainly top guys you want to play as best you can or as much as you can."
Nashville coach Barry Trotz didn't see much in terms of Xs and Os after Sunday's loss that he thought needed correcting. Instead, his message to his team has been to win more one-on-one battles, which the Predators have heard loud and clear.
"We've got to be more urgent," Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter
said. "We've got to outwork their four guys. I think just because we got the man advantage isn't anything we should take for granted. We need to make sure we're working hard and doing the right things to score goals.
"I don't think it's really systems. It comes down to execution and that urgency, playing with that desperation and guys going to the front of the net. [Chicago goalie Antti] Niemi is seeing too many pucks and it's making it easier on him."
Center Jason Arnott, who totaled 19 goals during only 63 regular-season games, said Nashville needs to shoot more.
"It seems to be the trend around the League -- getting pucks to the net and getting traffic," he said. "And hitting the net. They do a great job blocking shots, getting a man in front of our shooters. If we can find a way to bypass that and get it to the net and get screens, hopefully we can bang in a few rebounds."
One factor that has hurt Nashville on the power play was the absence of leading scorer Patric Hornqvist
in Game 2 with an upper-body injury. Hornqvist, who scored 10 of his 30 goals on the power play during the regular season, is a game-time decision, Trotz said.
And if he can't go, then someone else will have to fill his role of scoring "garbage" goals near the crease.
"I think just simplify," Trotz said of the answer to Nashville's power-play woes. "Playoff hockey is -- we talk about all these different things and I read all the stuff you guys write and you say you've got to dumb it down. Well, it's not dumb it down, it's being smart. There's no room to make all the plays you make during the regular season. It's not being dumb, it's about being smart and in the playoffs you have to be smart."
Then he pointed to the Los Angeles Kings, who have scored at a 38 percent clip in the playoffs -- best in the playoffs.
"Same with the power play. You have to be smart. I'm watching LA. LA's getting it. They're moving it around quickly so that they can break pressure and then they're just teeing it up and shooting it with traffic and then finding pucks in the crease area and screening the goalie. It's nothing complicated. They've simplified their power play and they've got seven."
Author: John Manasso | NHL.com Correspondent