The Blackhawks kicked off what they hope will be a run to the Stanley Cup when they faced the Nashville Predators in Game 1 of the playoffs.
If you were paying close attention to the Blackhawks' season, they tried to warn you their 1-0 loss to the Predators Thursday night was coming.
When the Hawks played after having three or more days of rest this season they were 1-5-0. They had four days off before Game 1 of the first round of the NHL playoffs.
Their two most recent games in those circumstances, a 3-1 loss to the Oilers on Feb. 18 and 1-0 loss to the Ducks on March 9, looked like a copy of Thursday night at the United Center — the Hawks controlled play for much of the game but had trouble finishing in the Predators zone.
It cost them at an inopportune time as the Predators took a 1-0 lead in the series and grabbed home-ice advantage with Game 2 here Saturday.
"We're down one goal all night," captain Jonathan Toews said. "One goal shouldn't stand."
The Predators took advantage of a sleepy first period from the Hawks and scored the night's only goal when Viktor Arvidsson redirected a Filip Forsberg shot past Corey Crawford 7 minutes, 52 seconds into the game while Pekka Rinne made 29 saves to earn the shutout.
"I don't think there's any excuse in the book that you can throw out there that would stand its ground," Toews said. "It's the first game of the playoffs. We should have a better start than we did. But sometimes there are some nerves and you need to shake things off."
Like the first period. The Hawks went more than 13 minutes without a shot on goal but made up for it by spending most of the next 40 minutes in the Predators zone. The only thing missing was a score.
While a Game 1 loss is never easy to swallow, perhaps the way the Hawks lost will let this one go down a little smoother. They had the Predators out of attack mode for 40 out of 60 minutes and dominated overall shot attempts (57 to 33 during 5-on-5 play), and the Predators' goal came after an awkward sequence in which Toews, Nick Schmaltz and Richard Panik converged around center Ryan Johansen, who dished the puck to Forsberg, leading to the goal while Schmaltz and Panik fell down.
"We always say we measure our team on what we give up," coach Joel Quenneville said. "If we give up those kind of chances every night, we would be very happy with our team game."
The only thing that had Quenneville upset was the quality of the Hawks' chances — another common thread in their losses in games after a long time off. The Predators were able to fluster the Hawks by getting sticks on pucks to disrupt shots from the outside or blocking them (26 blocks). Quenneville didn't seem to think Rinne stoned the Hawks as much as the Hawks shut out themselves.
"He looked all right because we didn't make it tough on him," Quenneville said. "That has to be the case. Any goalie who sees the puck as much as he did is going to be effective."
The Hawks have made such a habit out of getting clutch goals late in playoff games that it almost seemed destined the tying goal would come. But on Thursday the Hawks were waiting for a score that never came.
"That was a pretty good game by us," said Crawford, who had 19 saves. "But for sure we have to be better."