The Nashville Predators routed the Chicago Blackhawks 3-0 at Bridgestone Arena behind Nick Bonino’s third career hat trick. It was his first as a Predator as his others came with the Anaheim Ducks and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Nick Bonino (3)
The Predators could not have played a more perfect hockey game against their conference foe. In all situations, Nashville totalled 87 shot attempts, 42 scoring chances, 16 high danger chances, and 51 shots for. The Bonino line was especially dominant, finishing with a 92.31 CF% and a 94.62 xGF%. Objectively, the best player on the ice was Robin Lehner, as he stopped 48 shots and stopped the Predators from handing the Hawks the worst loss in a very long time.
During five on five play, the Predatortotalleded 70 shot attempts and 13 high danger chances. Even on the penalty kill, Nashville limited Chicago’s shot attempts to four on three power plays. Pekka Rinne earned one of the easiest shutouts of his career, stopping all twenty shots. Matt Duchene returned to the lineup and skated with Kyle Turris and Mikael Granlund, a line that wasn’t as aggressive as the Johansen or Bonino line but still played very well.
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Considering Robin Lehner played on a different level against the Predators, rebound control was important. Bonino scored all three goals right outside the blue paint. Good things happen when players live around the net.
Additionally, Bonino led the team in shots on goal with nine. Mikael Granlund and Craig Smith finished behind him with seven and five shots respectively, and Viktor Arvidsson, Calle Jarnkrok, and Ryan Johansen all finished with four shots. Nashville doused the Chicago netminder with shots, but second chance shots were the difference makers.
Rocco Grimaldi and Craig Smith were Nashville’s best players in terms of shot attempts, and Bonino benefitted. Grimaldi shot the puck through traffic on multiple occasions and was rewarded with three primary assists. Smith, who seemed to manage the puck better in the offensive zone than anyone on the two sides, created chance after chance and wore the Chicago defense down.
Viktor Arvidsson and Calle Jarnkrok nearly had two goals each but Lehner stopped them. This statement will be reiterated quite a bit, but the Hawks owe Lehner a steak dinner and more.
Pekka Rinne shut down any offense Chicago had. With two consecutive shutouts and Juuse Saros gaining confidence, the Predators look very dangerous for the next month. Now that Vladimir Tarasenko of the St. Louis Blues and both Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog are out for an extensive period of time, the Central Division race will be interesting to watch.
Nashville face the Calgary Flames and the New York Rangers at home