Not so coincidentally, it was also one of the few games that Patrick Kane has not taken part in during 2013-14. The star winger is out for the rest of the regular season with a team-termed “lower-body injury,” and his absence is showing.
Nashville’s lead felt enormous when it was only 1-0. To some degree, this is always true with the Predators, even when they aren’t a great team as is the case this season; Pekka Rinne in net and Shea Weber patrolling the blue line constitute a rather formidable defensive duo.
Still, offensive hopelessness isn’t something that usually characterizes the Blackhawks. Chicago is the highest-scoring team in the league this season and has been near the top in that respect for a number of years in a row. It makes sense; in addition to Kane, a team with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith is generally not going to be left wanting for goals.
But such was the case last night, a game which displayed Kane’s importance to the Blackhawks in very stark fashion. He is the catalyst to the team’s attack, often carrying his line as its only true top talent. This in turn allows Joel Quenneville to load up Chicago’s first line with Toews, Sharp and Hossa.
Without Kane, the Blackhawks’ transition game was almost non-existent, and there was a noticeable dearth of offensive creativity even when Chicago did manage to possess the puck in Nashville’s defensive zone for more than a handful of seconds.
Rarely do we see the Blackhawks fail to genuinely threaten to put a goal on the board in a 60-minute contest, but we saw it last night.