What an incredible atmosphere on Thursday night. I went to game 5 half-expecting a tempered crowd, but was blown away by how raucous and emblazoned with gold it was. It was the least amount of Hawks fans I'd ever personally seen in Bridgestone Arena for a Preds-Hawks game. Preds fans filled out the barn to capacity and brought their outside voices. It was 100 decibels on the reg for most of the game, and during the 3rd period it was as loud as I've ever heard it in Bridgestone. Smashville, you made me very proud.
It was also my FIRST PLAYOFF WIN as an attending fan. I was 0-4 prior to Thursday night (I think the losses were Coyotes, Canucks, Blackhawks, and Red Wings). So ending that losing streak was fun. Now time to start a playoff winning streak!
The Chicago Blackhawks
While the Preds have had significant changes to their lineup since game 1, the Blackhawks lineup throughout the series has remained largely unchanged. The only major change has been in goal, where Scott Darling has continued to shine... outside of maybe game 5. And the Hawks are going with Darling in game 6. I stand behind my words prior to game 4: Darling is a goalie playing above his head, mostly because we have given him shots he can handle. He is ultimately still a goalie that barely made it onto an NHL team and one that probably has more weaknesses than strengths. We know that shooting high stick side or high glove side is the best option. We know that getting to rebounds, though he has been good at gathering them in so far, is key. We know that getting shots off from the middle of the ice and closer to the net will be important in trying to chase Darling in game 6.
In other news, Andrew Shaw sucks. Punch him please:
In addition to the battle on the ice last night, the Predators fought a different kind of battle in the media when NBCSN commentator Gord Miller casually mentioned on the air that Shea Weber was out for the remainder of the playoffs with a torn ACL. And the local Predators media hive, including queen bees John Glennon and Adam Vingan of the Tennessean, unleashed a swarm of counter narratives. Preds twitter lost its mind for a brief time (like that ever happens).
Miller eventually clarified his statement:
Miller initially said Weber tore an anterior cruciate ligament during the Predators' playoff series against the Chicago Blackhawks.
John Glennon of the Tennessean later posted on Twitter: "Just talked to NBCSN's Gord Miller, who clarified Weber report. He said only that he'd heard local discussion of ACL, not that it was a fact."
Then, on Friday, the Predators released an official prognosis, but noticeably left absent the nature of the injury. They also adamantly denied Miller's claim:
...contrary to erroneous broadcast and media reports over the last 24 hours, he did not suffer an ACL injury. Further updates will be provided as they become available.
Look, I know it's the playoffs and there are a lot of media narratives to keep straight, but you can't just go around announcing things that aren't confirmed. It's irresponsible. And now that the Predators have recaptured momentum in the series, it's paramount that Laviolette and staff have complete control over what information is and isn't released to the media. Miller says he was merely passing along what was "suggested" to the media about Weber.
Back to the battle on the ice...
The Predators did a much better job getting shot quality, not just shot quantity, on Scott Darling. As we've talked about before, shot location matters. When you generate more dangerous shots, you generate more goals. Take a look at the Preds 5v5 shot plot from Game 5:
This is a slight improvement in shot attempt quality from game 4 to game 5. About 26-27 shot attempts came from the center of the ice, 18 of which came from within 30 feet of the goal. We still need to get more shots on net, especially from the outside. While the outside shots are not as dangerous, we have to keep testing Darling. At some point the rebounds will come loose.
If we get an offensive effort in game 6 like we did in game 5, I like our chances. If Pekka Rinne plays like he did in game 5, I like our chances. If Filip Forsberg is somehow snubbed for another award, I like our chances.
The Important Details
What's this? A normal start time? 7 pm central puck drop. NBC is the TV channel, 102.5 The Game is the radio station.