Ryan Hartman: ‘I’m not really going to change anything’

SHARE Ryan Hartman: ‘I’m not really going to change anything’

Ryan Hartman battles Nashville’s Ryan Ellis in front of the Predators’ net during Game 1. (AP Photo)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Blackhawks agitator Ryan Hartman avoided a fine or suspension for his cross-check to the head of the Predators’ Craig Smith in Game 2 on Saturday.

The NHL’s department of player safety deemed the roughing penalty and 10-minute game misconduct he received sufficient punishment.

Hartman didn’t want to discuss the play before Game 3 on Monday.

‘‘I’m not really focused on any of that stuff right now,’’ he said after the Hawks’ morning skate. ‘‘It’s Game 3. Those two games are over with. We’re just going to try to win this one, and I’m going to play the same way. I’m not really going to change anything.’’

Hartman started the sequence, which came with less than two minutes left and the Hawks trailing 5-0, with a clean shoulder hit that knocked Smith to the ice. He then followed it up with a shot to the side of the prone Smith’s head.

It came at the end of an awful game for the Hawks as a whole and Hartman as an individual. Hartman was on the ice for 19 Predators shot attempts — and only one Hawks shot attempt — in more than 11 minutes.

Hartman is the Hawks’ edgiest player, frequently walking the line between agitation and recklessness.

‘‘He’s one of those guys [the referees] always keep an eye on,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said. ‘‘To find that right side [of the line] is always a challenge. You’ve got to use intelligence and timing and recognition.’’

Pekka problem

Pekka Rinne is one of the better puck-handling goalies in the league and has been foiling some of the Hawks’ attempts to dump-and-chase to get around the Predators’ trapping defense. Rinne’s quick stickwork has stymied the Hawks’ ability to get the puck deep, go to work on the forecheck and get extended zone time in the Predators’ end.

‘‘He plays every puck,’’ Hartman said. ‘‘You try rimming it, and he seems to get there pretty quickly. You lose possession right away. . . . He beats the two wingers that are trying to crash down there, and they get an odd-man break.’’

Rinne even picked up two assists in Game 2.

‘‘Our dumps have not been very good,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘The timing of the dumps. He’s been getting a lot of pucks, and getting on the forecheck has been challenging. Our puck placement — sometimes you want to think about getting it on the glass or keeping it away from him. But let’s make sure he’s not as effective with the puck because sometimes he can move it like a defenseman.’’

Crawford keeps the net

The last time the Hawks played the Predators in the playoffs (2015), pulling Corey Crawford and playing Scott Darling in goal helped turn things around. But it didn’t sound as though Quenneville even entertained the idea heading into Game 3.

Crawford was sharp in Game 1, stopping 19 of 20 shots, but he gave up five goals in the Hawks’ miserable Game 2 effort.

‘‘Crow’s been fine,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘You can’t blame the goalie after two games when we haven’t found a way to score ourselves.’’

Night owls

Though they always demur publicly, just abut every coach and player loathes the 8:45 p.m. puck drops that have become commonplace for Central Division teams in recent postseasons. The Hawks held their ‘‘morning’’ skate at noon to get their body clocks right.

‘‘A little bit more waiting around during the day,’’ defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. ‘‘It’s the same thing for the other team, as well. Doesn’t really matter too much. Everything just gets delayed and gets later. It’s just how it is when it comes to playoff time.’’

Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus.

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com


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