Well those two days felt long, eh?
After a bit of a break following an elating game three overtime win, the Nashville Predators face off against the Chicago Blackhawks in game four of their series tonight. With a commanding 3-0 lead, the Predators have a chance to vanquish their longtime conqueror from the north, advancing to the next round of the playoffs in the process.
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
If you had asked me which part of the Blackhawks would fall apart this series, the last answer I would give is that Toews, Kane, Hossa, Panarin, and the rest of the forwards would fail to do their jobs. Nevertheless, with only #OneGoal between those four forwards and two overall over three games, the big guns of the Blackhawks are being emphatically shut down.
The physicality of the Predators seems to be causing the Blackhawks lots of problems, which is odd because, despite Ryan Hartman’s game two hit on Craig Smith, this hasn’t been that chippy of a playoff series. We haven’t witnessed any real fights or anything pointing to a real physical escalation. Nevertheless, the Predators have just been wearing down their forwards, especially captain Jonathan Toews. P.K. Subban and Ryan Johansen (yup, you heard that right, Columbus) have been physically dominating Toews. Be it Subban giving him no space in the offensive zone and getting under Toews’s skin or Johansen stiff-arming Toews and laying him out on his rear, the two Predators have taken Toews completely out of this series.
While Crawford has been getting a lot of heat for some reason, he’s been the best Blackhawk all series. His defense has constantly let him down while his offense has reverted back to 2003 Blackhawk hockey. For example, Crawford had no business robbing Fiala’s second opportunity in overtime, but he has been making tremendous saves all series long.
A lot of people have been disgruntled about the lack of coverage that the Predators have received in comparison to the Blackhawks. The truth is, despite the Predators excelling and showing that their series lead is no mistake, there have never been more questions for this current core of Blackhawk players.
The Nashville Predators
Does everyone remember what kind of team Nashville was supposed to be at the start of the season? A Cup contender? A dominant force in the central?
That team has finally arrived at Bridgestone Arena.
After erasing a two goal deficit to win game three 3-2 in overtime, the Nashville Predators took a commanding 3-0 series lead over the Blackhawks. This series, against the best team in the NHL over the last eight years, the Predators have looked like the more determined, more talented, and more confident team.
While everyone knew (or should have known) how talented the Predators are, the game three overtime win showed perhaps the one trait that has eluded this team in their playoff history: the ability to come through in the clutch. More specifically, this is the trait to come through in the clutch by simply being the better team. The Predators dominated overtime, constantly shoving the Blackhawks back into their own zone. For so long, Pekka Rinne has had to bail the Predators out of tough situations. He’s still been the best goalie of the playoffs so far, but Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, Ryan Johansen, and Kevin Fiala are all just as capable of stealing a win.
However, “stealing a win” is somewhat of an incorrect term. They’re claiming the win, because they deserve it.
This is perhaps the biggest change and difference between this Predators team and any other incarnation of the team that made the playoffs. The Predators aren’t winning because they’re riding a hot goalie or playing a gritty, shut-down style of play. They’re winning because they’re really damn good. And that’s a great change.
Reasons to Watch
- The Nashville Predators could sweep the Chicago Blackhawks. ‘Nuff said.
- Kevin Fiala has been electric all series long. Let’s hope the kid keeps it up.
- While the entire JOFA line has been phenomenal, Ryan Johansen in particular leads the team with five points in three games. He’s really rising to the occasion. Take note, Columbus media.
- Ryan Ellis has been absolutely phenomenal this series. We all knew he was good, but yowza. It was perhaps a two-way contest between Subban and Roman Josi as who the Predators’ best defenseman was, but Ellis’ play as of late is starting to put his name up in that conversation.
Sights and Sounds
Tonight the puck drops at 7:00ct (thank goodness) at Bridgestone Arena. The game will be televised on NBCSN and FS-South while 102.5 The Game will have the radio call.