The Chicago Blackhawks currently find themselves down 2-0 in their best of seven series with the Nashville Predators. Making things even worse, they dropped both games at home and have turned over home ice advantage to the Predators. It may be time to hit the panic button in Chicago.
The Blackhawks have won three Stanley Cups since 2010. So if there is any team mentally tough enough to dig themselves out of this hole, it should be the Blackhawks. However, it is not just that they have lost two games, it is the way they lost. The Hawks have not managed a single goal in two games, back-to-back shutouts for Pekka Rinne. Chicago has as much offensive talent as any team in the playoffs, but it appears Nashville is just a perfect match for the Blackhawks style.
The Predators have a defense first mentality; great goaltending, forwards that support through the d-zone and defensemen that can both skate well and play physically. PK Subban, Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis are all great examples of the modern hybrid defensemen that each NHL team needs to be successful. Even with Chicago having the last change, they have not found a way to get their top scorers into ideal matchups. With the series shifting to Nashville, those matchups will not get any better.
I am not saying the series is necessarily over, but it is time for the Blackhawks to panic. They need to turn the tide. The best way to do that in the playoffs is to win the war of attrition and get a little dirty. First, they need to score a goal by whatever means possible. If you have to take a run at Rinne, do it. Just throw every garbage shot at the net and hope for a bounce. The only way to gain momentum is to get on the scoreboard. Next is to get Nashville less focused on playing hockey and more focused on revenge. When Dustin Byfuglien or Bryan Bickell were in Chicago they did this better than anyone. They could throw a hit on a star player that would get the entire opponent bench focused on them, instead of the game. The Blackhawks need that now. It may not be the Blackhawks style to score dirty goals or be the most physical team, but that is what they have to do to claw back into this series.
Most importantly the veteran leaders on this team need to show up. Jonathan Toews was named to the NHL 100 list earlier this year due to his leadership and playoff success. Rightfully so this selection was highly scrutinized as Toews does not have stats comparable to the other great players of his generation. Well, this is when Toews is supposed to earn that honor. If he is the leader everyone talks about him being, he will have to be the one to get his team back into this series.