Blackhawks finish lopsided season series against Predators with another loss

The Hawks lost 3-1 on Friday to finish with just one win in eight games against Nashville, pushing their playoff hopes onto extremely thin ice.

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The Predators stifled the Blackhawks over the second half of the game Friday.

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The Predators left no doubt: They’re a better team than the Blackhawks this season.

They beat the Hawks 3-1 on Friday night at the United Center, leaving the Hawks with just one win — an unlikely overtime victory Wednesday — in an eight-game season series. The Hawks were outscored 23-12 overall.

Winger Patrick Kane insisted after the game that “there’s still a belief in the locker room that we can go on a run,” but the Hawks would have to catch the Predators to make the playoffs — and even if they somehow did, it wouldn’t be just.

“Obviously, it changes the standings, the fact they won seven of eight against us,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “They have a style that’s hard for us.”

Added defenseman Connor Murphy: “It’s a team that we hate losing to. It’s just not good enough by us to let so many games slide against them.”

The Hawks had occasional good stretches against the Preds this season, and the first 25 minutes Friday was arguably their best. They had 23 of the game’s first 32 shots on goal and generated high-danger scoring chances.

But after the Predators claimed a 2-0 lead on goals by Ryan Johansen and Luke Kunin in the second period, their structured neutral-zone formation — often with four players lined up horizontally along the blue line — and conservative defensive system completely shut the Hawks down. The Hawks had only three shots on goal over a 27-minute span.

“They really tightened up,” Colliton said. “They did a good job of making it hard for us to get through the neutral zone. . . . We had a tough time coming together on the forecheck, to have two or three guys be able to put pressure. A lot of the times, it seemed like a one-man forecheck.”

Subban enjoys run

Between Nov. 27 and Dec. 3, 2019, goalie Malcolm Subban had one of the best stretches of his up-and-down NHL career. He made four consecutive starts for the Golden Knights, going 4-0-0 with a .941 save percentage.

That stretch (and the two games after) was the last time the career backup made four or more consecutive NHL appearances until this week. Friday marked Subban’s third start and fourth appearance in the Hawks’ last four games.

He has done well, going 2-1-0 with a .933 save percentage (98 saves on 105 shots) despite giving up two soft goals Friday.

“[Subban has] been good for us all year,” Colliton said. “He’s answered the bell when he has [gone] in. Tonight, I’m sure he wouldn’t be totally satisfied with . . . [but] he certainly kept it 0-0 when they had some transition chances early in the first. We believe in him.”

Younger defense

With rookie defenseman Nicolas Beaudin replacing injured Calvin de Haan, the Hawks rolled with seven defensemen and 11 forwards again, making Dylan Strome a healthy scratch for the second straight game.

Colliton said he wants to add another option to the mix of defensemen he relies on and hopes Beaudin — who has appeared just three times since Feb. 20 — can be that again.

Beaudin had a strong 13-8 on-ice shot-attempt differential, and Colliton praised him for making “a lot of plays early on.”

Adam Boqvist also played Wednesday and Friday after missing almost four games in concussion protocol. He clarified Thursday that didn’t mean he necessarily had a concussion.

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