|(Photo by: John Russel/Getty Images)|
Nashville played in front of their 18th home sellout crowd of the season this afternoon, although because if cheap SouthWest airlines flights (I'm told), it was a healthy mix of Red and Yellow in the stands. With their playoffs hopes on the line, Preds didn't show nearly enough spark to compete with the very good Blackhawks.
Nashville played okay through the first two periods, but unfortunately against the very good Chicago Blackhawks, okay just didn't cut it. An early goal by Bryan Bickell, his 7th on the season, was the only scoring news through two periods. The Predators did manage some good efforts, forcing a nice save out of Emery once or twice. The goalie only looked partially confident. The rest of the 40 minutes was nothing less than a Pekka Rinne highlight reel. Seriously, you could make a Youtube video featuring 11 of his 22 first period saves. He was even within an inch of the cross crease pass that led to Chicago's goal. He acrobatically got across the crease and was just shy from getting his big paddle on the puck.
Nashville got a golden opportunity early in the third, when Carcillo was assessed a double minor for high sticking. But Chicago replied with a very good, very aggressive, penalty kill effort that got a big ovation from the "home" fans.
The Predators efforts picked up after that, but, as the story of this season goes, it was too little too late for the team. The absence of Bourque, Wilson and, to a lesser extent, Erat, was felt as many close chances went unfinished. Beck, Mueller and Halischuk all had many attempts that they could not bury. Beck especially could have put at least a few in but was just unable to set his stick right.
Almost as soon as Rinne was pulled, with 1:40 left, the puck sprung ahead to a racing Blackhawks player with a 2 on 0, but amazing hustle by Yip slowed down the Hawk enough for Hornqvist to sprawl in front of the shot and keep the hopes alive. Nashville continued the pressure with a man advantage, but it wasn't enough, as the game ended 1-0 thanks, in part, to some late Emery magic.
The Preds were 0 for 3 on the powerplay
Still mathematically possible, but playoffs are all but out of reach
The Preds play the Blackhawks again tomorrow, and a third time on the19th. They also face the Red Wings twice and the Blues once in their remaining 9 games. They will need to leap-frog 4 teams to get that 8th playoff spot. 6 Points back with two games more than most of the opposition, the playoffs are just about impossible.
With that on his mind, it will be interesting to see how Trotz operates his team. Will he try to get Forsberg in the lineup, or maybe call up Austin Watson? It will need to be a delicate balance, sine Milwaukee finds themselves in a playoff push of their own.
Rinne, phenomenal, but unimpressed
You have to think that the star goalie is getting frustrated in this final stretch. He played his heart out, but just the one goal was enough to incur a loss in a very important game. His opposing goalie, Emery, also had a solid outing, but Rinne is one of few players still meeting fan expectations this season. He is proving that he is worth the money we spent on him, and that the long contract won't effect his attitude. This season the team owes Rinne an apology. He has been there almost every game, except for his Canadian road trip, that he will want to forget. Hopefully the guys are inspired next season and Rinne doesn't regret signing a lengthy contract extension in Nashville.
Mason will likely get the start tomorrow night in Chicago.
Goals and Assists
1-0 CHI: Bryan Bickell – Michal Handzus, Marcus Kruger, 5:31 in the first
My Three Stars of the Game
1. Pekka Rinne:29 saves on 30 shots
2. Ray Emery: 20 Save Shutout
3. Patric Hornqvist
Predators’ scratches: #4 D, Ryan Ellis #57 W Gabriel Bourque (upper body) and #28 C Paul Gaustad
Blackhawks scrathes: J Mayers, B Bolland, M. Rozsival