It was safe to assume that the Nashville Predators – without defenseman Shea Weber – would struggle in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Well, they did.
Weber, who suffered a lower-body injury in Game 2, did not even travel with the team to Chicago for Game 3 on Sunday. The Blackhawks won, 4-2.
Chicago controlled the game, and its offense operated freely. Without Weber, Nashville looked naked.
“Yeah, they were naked – and maybe more than a little bit (Sunday),” Predators play-by-play voice Pete Weber said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “I know you can point at stats and say Nashville outshot Chicago and all of that, but I really didn’t see that much – particularly in the third period – in the way of push-back from the Predators in that game. They answered back two goals early – one 31 seconds later, another 22 seconds later. But once (Brandon) Saad scored the goal to make it 3-2 and then (Brent) Seabrook (scored) the 4-2 goal, there was still quite a bit of time remaining, but (I) really didn’t see much in the Predators coming back. Now, I know it’s strange to talk about lack of attack minus a defenseman, Shea Weber, but he’s been obviously a huge part of that.”
Indeed, the Predators packed little punch. The Blackhawks, meanwhile, got another huge boost from goalie Scott Darling and center Andrew Desjardins, who gave Chicago a 1-0 lead in the first period.
“Keep in mind (that) the Predators and Blackhawks had not met in the regular season after Dec. 29,” Weber said. “So Desjardins comes here in a deal much later than all of that, so we had not seen him in a Blackhawks uniform. But Scott Darling, here’s a guy who was tending goal for the Milwaukee Admirals, the Predators’ farm club, a year ago. They elected not to resign him. Then he comes on. Now, he might be the guy that saves this particular round for Chicago.”
Darling relieved Corey Crawford in Game 1 after Crawford allowed three first-period goals. Darling saved all 42 shots he faced, and the Blackhawks won, 4-3, in double overtime.
“I was rather shocked that they did not come back with him in Game 2 when you consider that,” Weber said. “But Joel Quenneville went with the idea that his No. 1 guy is Corey Crawford. Well, Corey Crawford ends up giving up six goals to Nashville on just 35 shots in the second game, so you come back with Darling.”
Darling allowed two goals on 13 shots Sunday, but then he stopped the next 24. He has saved 77 of 79 shots faced in the series and has allowed just two of Nashville’s 11 goals.
“He has gotten on two incredibly long streaks in these playoffs,” Weber said. “And for the time being, unless the Predators are able to knock him out of the box in Game 4, this is the guy who seems to control the series.”
Game 4 is Tuesday in Chicago at 9:30 p.m. ET.