While Sunday's loss was a little disheartening, its not quite the watershed moment Chicago media would have you believe. The Predators are winning in goal differential and still hold home ice advantage. The task is now simple: win three home games. There's margin for error with two tilts in Chicago remaining, but I'd prefer it not go that way. The Preds have the lineup change advantage and presumably a raucous Bridgestone Arena to work with tonight and Thursday. Jason Arnott and Steve Sullivan in particular perform much better at home than on the road, so there's a litany of things tilting the ice in Nashville's favor.
The best part about tonight's game, though, is this: you can help. If you're attending tonight's game, be louder than you've ever been. Sitting down or being quiet is for intermissions. This team needs us. Its cheesy, but also true.
Check out this interview with a Preds assistant, with thoughts and lineups after the jump.
Ten thoughts on tonight's game:
- Nashville's big guns need to get going, especially with the uncertainty of leading scorer Patric Hornqvist. You can't ask for much more out of J.P. Dumont, but Arnott, Sullivan, and Martin Erat have all been relatively silent. Its encouraging in the sense that they've stayed quite competitive, but in order to win Barry Trotz needs more from his best players.
- Where's Denis Grebeshkov? I don't know, but it seems strange if he really is healthy that he isn't getting iced. In the short time he was available in March, he really sparked a lackluster power play. Perhaps tonight...?
- Don't let statistics fool you in the case of this series' goaltenders. Despite Antti Niemi's shutout, Preds fans can be confident they still hold the better 'keeper in Pekka Rinne. A performance similar to Sunday's will go a long way to a series lead.
- Dustin Boyd's Game 2 was a revelation. If Patric Hornqvist is available, I don't see how Nick Spaling plays over Boyd. He fits in any situation and makes few mistakes.
- For all the talk about Chicago's vaunted defense, the Predators 1.50 GAA is good for tops in the NHL playoffs.
- Thanks to having the last line change, expect to see a lot more of David Legwand against Jonathan Toews.
- The penalty kill has been for the most part much improved, and the man advantage generated several good opportunities on Sunday. If Grebeshkov and Hornqvist are both playing, don't be surprised if the Predators pot one on the power play.
- Its been beaten to death, but it bears mentioning again. The Blackhawks are highly susceptible to a tight forecheck without Brian Campbell or Kim Johnsson. As good as Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are, they aren't elite puck movers. Create some turnovers!
- Even if The Horn Dog can play, Nashville needs more net presence. Jason Arnott and Joel Ward particularly have the size and strength to park in front of Niemi, but haven't. A big body goes a long way to blocking a goalie's (especially an inexperienced one's) sightlines.
- Finally, an interesting stat. Over 82 regular season games, Nashville averaged 17 hits per game. They've averaged thirty four in two playoff games.
#35 / Goalie / Nashville Predators
Nov 03, 1982
|2009 - Pekka Rinne||58||3246||32||16||137||2.53||1541||1404||.911||7|
#31 / Goalie / Chicago Blackhawks
Aug 29, 1983
|2009 - Antti Niemi||39||2190||26||7||82||2.25||936||854||.912||7|
The signs seem to be pointing to a huge win for the Predators. They did so many things right in Game 2 but couldn't pull it together, such as the power play and the penalty kill. The goaltending is certainly there, and now the crowd will be too. The performances in Chicago were better than even I was expecting as the resident optimist. Predators 3, Chicago 1.