Before the series began, one would have to be extremely bold to claim that the Nashville Predators would win the first two games in Chicago. That Pekka Rinne has shut the Blackhawks out in both of those games is nearly unimaginable.
Nevertheless, that’s the position that the Predators find themselves in. Following up a scary 1-0 victory on Thursday, the Predators manhandled Chicago in a 5-0 victory on Saturday. With two assists, Pekka Rinne now has more points than the entire Chicago team.
Nevertheless, the Predators won the first two road games against Anaheim last season, only to lose the next three. This series is far from over but, with a win tonight, the Predators can inch closer.
The Chicago Blackhawks
Last week, we’ve previewed the key components of this Blackhawks team:
- Special Teams
- Some positivity from Austin
- Some final thoughts from Alex
After shuffling their lines a bit after game 1, the Blackhawks were blown out of the water in game 2 as Nashville dominated the game. Unlike in game 1 where the Blackhawks had the Predators pinned back in their own zone for most of the game, the Predators’ speed overwhelmed the Blackhawks, severely disrupting their game plan and forcing a lot of turnovers.
That’s not to say that the Blackhawks didn’t have their chances. A few pipes were rung throughout the contest, notably with Jonathan Toews barely missing the net shortly after the game began. They also were able to generate scoring chances off the rush. The difference was that their best players weren’t sustaining offensive zone pressure like the Predators were able to.
Ryan Hartman will be back for the Blackhawks on Monday after hitting a defenseless Craig Smith in the face/neck area in game 2. Despite everyone wanting one, the Department of Player Safety provided no reason for not even reviewing the hit. However, there are no updates on any Blackhawk lines for tonight.
The Nashville Predators
After crushing the Blackhawks 5-0 on Saturday night, the Predators flew home on Easter Sunday to swaths of gold-clad fans at the airport ready to greet them.
The Predators have scored all six goals this series from different players up and down the lineup, as Viktor Arvidsson, Ryan Ellis, Harry Zolnierczyk, Colton Sissons, Ryan Johansen, and Kevin Fiala have found the net.
However, the two players (other than Rinne, of course) who have really been giving the Blackhawks fits have been Filip Forsberg and Craig Smith. Their speed has helped them create opportunities down the left side of the ice, namely resulting in Sissons’ and Johansen’s goals.
Finally, what’s been excellent to see about the Predators is how unfazed they are by the Blackhawks, especially as the series has gotten chippier. Perhaps Heel James Neal’s je-ne-sais-quois has rubbed off on some of the other Predators. Seeing Viktor Arvidsson just grin at Duncan Keith after getting punched in the face was glorious, as was Craig Smith laughing at Ryan Hartman’s sucker punch upon returning to the bench. The Predators have has the Blackhawks’ number this series and now the Predators are acting like they know it.
Reasons to Watch
- Filip Forsberg is due. This isn’t the same snake-bitten Prince Filip who has been unable to generate offence in the last two playoffs, as he’s consistently looked dangerous this series.
- Pekka Rinne has been incredible. For how many straight periods can he blank the Blackhawks?
- While we’ve known how good Ryan Ellis is for a while now, his game has elevated to another level. From scoring in game 2 to his impeccable defense in game 1, one can argue that he has been the best Predator skater this series.
Sights and Sounds
The puck drops at 8:30ct at Bridgestone Arena. The game will be televised on CNBC and FS-South while 102.5 The Game will have the radio call.