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The Chicago Blackhawks’ losing streak has hit eight games after a 4-2 defeat to the Nashville Predators on Wednesday night. Once again, they fell behind early, but they actually held the lead for the first time in nearly three weeks. The advantage lasted less than four minutes, but at least baby steps were taken.
Playing From Behind….Again
The Blackhawks have surrendered the first goal in all but five games this season. It has been a topic we discussed on the podcast ad nauseam. I am sure the players are just as sick of being asked about not scoring first as we are talking about it.
Defenseman Connor Murphy told us after the morning skate that the “here we go again” mindset is hard to ignore after falling 1-0 on a nightly basis.
“You don’t think that way, but sometimes it can be in the back of guys’ minds,” he said. “We trust that we are going to pull through in some of those games. Moreso, when the scoring doesn’t come for us, combined with letting in a couple of goals, we can get frustrated, and then we let up more mistakes after that.
“We haven’t had the best starts. The start of the last game, it seemed like we were ok. We’re getting fragile after letting in a goal or two.”
Just like Sunday’s game versus the New York Rangers, the Blackhawks had some jump to their step from the opening draw. They got lucky when Filip Forsberg hit the post two minutes into the game, but the top three lines all generated extended offensive zone time and pressure. However, as has been the case all season long, they just couldn’t find the back of the net.
Appropriately, it was Murphy who tied the game late in the second period by scoring his third goal of the season off Cody Glass’ stick.
MacKenzie Entwistle gave the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead 37 seconds later. It was their first lead in 456:40, since they beat the Rangers back on Dec. 3.
Unfortunately, they couldn’t take that advantage into the intermission as Matt Duchene tied the game with just five seconds left in the second period. Predators’ captain Roman Josi gave his team a 3-2 lead 1:27 into the final frame, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Isaak Phillips Plays His Role
With Jarred Tinordi on injured reserve, the Blackhawks needed a physical defender on the blue line. Isaak Phillips was the best-suited replacement on the Rockford IceHogs, and frankly, he earned his second stint in the NHL.
Head coach Luke Richardson had fairly simple expectations for the young defenseman.
“We want him to be a little more aggressive this year, a little bit meaner,” he said. “Create a reputation that he’s not fun to play against. We don’t want him to run around, hit people, and be stupid. We just want him to play aggressively in his role, style, and position. If he can do that, he’s a big, young guy who can skate; then it’s the first step in the right direction for him.”
Phillips understood the assignment. He looked confident on the ice, moved the puck quickly, and used his body when the situation called for it. One of his best sequences came in the opening shift of the third period when the game was still tied, as he rode Nino Niederreiter off the puck in the corner, which led to a zone exit.
Jake McCabe was the victim of a Tanner Jeannot high stick late in the first period and never returned to the game.
Richardson quickly trusted Phillips with extra shifts, which did not hurt the team in the least. And the end of the night, Phillips finished with 17:59 of ice time, including nearly two minutes on the penalty kill, two shots on goal, four shot attempts, and a team-high five hits. He commented that playing with Murphy makes things easy for him on the ice. Look for that pairing to stay together over the next few games.
Ian Mitchell Does What’s Expected
Ian Mitchell was back in the lineup against the Predators. The once highly-touted prospect has struggled to cement himself in an NHL roster spot. Richardson wants Mitchell to be the type of player that has made him so effective with the IceHogs the past two seasons.
“When your instinct as a shooter, that’s one of your best attributes, is to shoot it, then don’t second guess yourself just because you’re up a level and you want to make other people happy out there,” he said. “If you have that opportunity to shoot it, shoot it. And move the puck quick. It’s a fast league; it’s a big league, he’s not the biggest player, move the puck quick, keep yourself out of defensive trouble and offensively, when your first instinct is there, take it.”
Mitchell was definitely more aggressive in the offensive zone, and Richardson commended him for it after the game. He had four total shot attempts, with two getting on net. He was also given extra time with the loss of McCabe. He played a career-high 20:15 tonight, just the second time he’s ever played over 20 minutes in an NHL game. He also played well in the defensive zone with three blocked shots and finished even on the plus/minus sheet.
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