You know it’s bad when the remaining fans at a quickly emptying United Center are cheering successful clearing attempts.
And chanting for a goalie (Eddie Belfour) who has been retired from the game for five years.
Yes, Sunday night’s 6-1 loss to the Nashville Predators was that bad.
From goaltending, where starter Corey Crawford was pulled after allowing Nashville’s fourth goal early in the third period … to the power play, which was anything but.
Plain and simple, the Blackhawks got it handed it to them every which way.
“They were better than us pretty much all over the ice today,” defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson. “The bottom line is they outworked us, and it showed.”
The win improved the Predators to a scary 4-0-1 against the Hawks this season and stamped them as perhaps the team the Hawks least want to meet at any point in the playoffs.
“They’ve got a good goaltender, they’re well coached, they play hard, and every time we match up against them it’s a tough one,” Patrick Sharp said.
Not helping their cause was the fact the Blackhawks had four power-play chances and finished with a total of — hold on — zero shots on goal.
“That kind of stopped any chance of us getting any momentum,” Sharp said.
But to be fair, given the way Predators goalie Pekka Rinne has been playing, it probably wouldn’t have mattered if the Hawks were peppering him nonstop — the guy is that good. He stopped 24 of the 25 shots he faced to pick up victory No. 41.
“Peks made some big, big saves,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said.
It doesn’t hurt that the Predators are such a defensive-oriented team that once they get a lead they’re so tough to catch.
“They work hard,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “They’re relentless.”
While Rinne was rolling, Crawford was struggling, picking up his first loss since putting together a season-best, five-game winning streak.
“There were a couple of weird ones, but I’ve got to come up with a way to make a save there,” Crawford said.
The Hawks could have used the excuse that they were playing without defenseman Duncan Keith (suspension) and center Marcus Kruger (concussion syndromes), but they didn’t.
“We can’t be happy with the way we played today,” Quenneville said. “Let’s move forward knowing we have to be better across the board.”
Added Crawford: “We need to completely forget this one and get back to the way we were playing before.”
If the Hawks want some revenge against Nashville, they won’t have to wait too long. The two teams meet again Saturday in Music City.
“We see them one more time down the stretch,” Sharp said. “We want to make sure we play our best game ever.”
They’ll need it.
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