The Blackhawks played a very good Predators team on Sunday night without Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith or Marcus Kruger.
And they got hammered.
As much as one would like to think the missing players were an excuse for the Hawks getting blown out at the United Center, reality indicates that it was simply more of the same from Nashville this year.
Coming into Sunday, the Blackhawks were 1-3-0 against the Preds and had been outscored 15-9 in those four games. In fact, in the three games the two teams played during the Hawks’ nine-game losing streak between Jan. 21 and Feb. 14, Nashville outscored Chicago 11-5.
The Blackhawks did score… once… to draw the score to 4-1 just after a power play ended early in the third period. But Shea Weber scored 36 seconds later as a subtle, 100+ mile per hour reminder that the game was in fact over.
Chicago has now lost at home only eight times all season (in 39 games), and two of those have come at the hands of the Predators. What’s more, through Sunday’s game, the Blackhawks have allowed 101 goals at the United Center this year; 13 of those have come in three games against Nashville.
On a night when Ed Belfour was honored, the Hawks pulled Corey Crawford less than two minutes into the third period. Ray Emery replaced him and continued the swiss cheese approach between the pipes.
Unfortunately, the Hawks will play Nashville once more while Keith is suspended.
This wasn’t a trap game, it was a butt kicking.
And it couldn’t be more clear that the Blackhawks, without Toews, Keith and (to a significantly lesser extent) Kruger and Steve Montador are not a championship contender in the Western Conference.