Tonight, the Nashville Predators have a chance to do something they've never done: put a team on the cusp of elimination in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. History shows that when a team goes up 3 games to 1, they have a 91.3 % chance of advancing to uncharted territory.
The problem? The Chicago Blackhawks are mad as hornets. They've been outscored, outworked, outhit, and out-goaltended. Tonight will be the biggest test of their character this season, and failure to respond would mean disaster.
Ten thoughts on tonight's game:
Despite all the hullabaloo about Chicago's wonderful shot differential, the Predators put 35 shots on Antti Niemi compared to just 27 on Pekka Rinne in Game 3. Do that again and I'd bet the results are similar.
- Speaking of Pekka Rinne, remember how pundits said he had to be spectacular for Nashville to win?
- David Legwand has been the best skater in this series, and its not close. He leads the series with 5 points (1 GWG, 4 assists), all while holding Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa to 2 points and a combined -6.
- While the Predators' power play still hasn't broken through, Game 3 was encouraging. They were able to hold the zone and generate good chances for extended periods.
- I haven't been particularly impressed with the play of Jordin Tootoo. In fact, the only time I noticed him on Tuesday was when he missed a huge check in the offensive zone. A little disappointing for a player who had vastly improved his game early in the year.
- Signs are pointing to the Hawks' Brian Campbell playing tonight, which is a significant help in terms of breaking the Preds' "crazy good" forecheck. While I don't advocate injuring another player, a solid Shea Weber or Francis Bouillon check could be just what the doctor ordered to keep 'Soupy' off his game.
- One advantage that some weren't anticipating at the beginning of the series is in the coaching department. Barry Trotz has (so far) outsmarted Joel Quenneville, showing a willingness to adapt as the game progresses.
- Hawks fans are calling on Chicago to bring more effort than Nashville tonight. If there's one thing I've learned, its that while the Predators will get outplayed or outclassed, they'll almost never get outworked.
- Joel Ward and Kevin Klein each recorded their first career playoff points on Tuesday (goal and assist respectively). Here's to more tonight. Also, in a bit of a strange one, Dan Hamhuis led all Preds in ice time.
- Finally, if you're headed to the game, the team needs an even stronger effort from the crowd tonight. They fed off your energy on Tuesday, but this is a wounded Hawks team that will be looking for blood from the get-go. Make noise, get on your feet, whatever- just bring it.
#35 / Goalie / Nashville Predators
Nov 03, 1982
|2009 - Pekka Rinne||3||177||2||1||4||1.35||86||82||.953||0|
Some changes, per SCH. Namely Ben Eager and Colin Fraser out, Adam Burish and Bryan Bickell in.
#31 / Goalie / Chicago Blackhawks
Aug 29, 1983
|2009 - Antti Niemi||3||179||1||2||82||2.01||82||76||.927||1|
I'm desperately trying to stay realistic when it comes to the result of this series. The problem? This team is playing the negativity right out of my mind. Its Joel Ward, Shea Weber, David Legwand, heck, even The Cube has earned a place in Preds lore at this point. Despite all my good feelings, however, doubts linger that the Predators can bring an identical effort tonight. Chicago 3, Nashville 2 (OT).