Well, they’re back. This is the Nashville team we’ve been accustomed to in the past. We were sold a story that with Subban, Johansen, Arvidsson, and Ellis that this team would try to get up and down and skate…
Credit to Nashville for using a game plan that worked. They trapped all night. There was no space in the neutral zone, and even though the Blackhawks had the puck for the majority of the game, they didn’t really generate any quality chances. Everything was from the perimeter and when pucks did get through, Rinne was there. I watched at least some of every series the last two days and Blackhawks-Predators was easily the most boring. The Preds played a more boring style than even the Senators, which I didn’t know was possible. So boring that there was really only one highlight for the entire game.
That was it. One bad defensive breakdown that looked like three stoogies attempt at hockey by the forwards and everyone kinda got caught watching the puck. That was the difference. The Hawks came out of the gates like Game 1 was a throw away game up in Rochester, gave up the lead, the crowd, and eventually home advantage in the series. Ugly start to the series. Having said that, I am not worried. Everything I said in the preview blog yesterday is still true. The Blackhawks are the better team. They just need to play with more urgency and dictate the pace of the game. We’ve seen this from the Blackhawks throughout this era. They start slow in the series, and by the end they’re skating circles around their opponents. They’ve lost Game 1 in a series 5 different times and comeback to win the series. In games 1-3 in this time span the Blackhawks are 29-32, in Games 4-7 they’re 46-17. The Hawks will ramp it up, they will make adjustments, and if you’re trying to 4 of 7 by winning 1-0 against the Hawks then you’re playing for the inside straight.
–Last night was a great example of why Corsi is a bullshit stat. Duncan Keith was the team leader, and the Hawks overall controlled that stat, but Keith didn’t have a great game. His game was clumsy at times with bad puck handling and puck management. He also got dusted by Arvidsson on a chance that went off the crossbar in the 3rd and was on the ice when Arvidsson score in the first. When the Hawks are at their best, Duncan Keith is their engine. He will need to be better going forward if the Hawks want to go anywhere.
–Anisimov was also noticeably rusty in his first game back. He didn’t have as much chemistry with the soulmates. His job is to drive the net and create space for the 88 and 72. It just seemed as if their timing was off a little bit
–The Hawks were abysmal in the first period so Coach Q threw the lines in a blender that resulted in Kero skating with Toews and Panik, and Schmaltz…pretty much benched. Kero played hard and played pretty well, but there’s not a ton of creativity in his game and that line, while they won battles and had the puck a good amount, they weren’t particularly dangerous. That line needs Schmaltz to be effective because he facilitates the other two guys. I understand why Coach Q made the change, but I hope he gives Schmaltz more time to get adjusted to playoff hockey in the next game.
–Also, if Kero is playing wing, well then you really only have 3 centers. The roster is more balanced with Kero lining up at center. I’d also like to see Kero playing with Hartman and Hossa. He would give that line a little more pop. Kruger can do Kruger things with anyone. Maybe sit Hayden and Tootoo(although he was fine) and go with a 4th line of Rasmussen-Kruger-Hinostroza in Game 2.
–The rookies, in general, didn’t really show up for the Blackhawks last night. John Hayden only played about 5 minutes, and Hartman didn’t impact the game. Hartman needs to be a spark plug for this team. A guy that can change the course of the game with a hit, a goal, or his mouth. He got a little chirpy in the 3rd last night, but he needs to bring more of an edge to his game going forward.
–It seemed like Joel tried to match Toews against the Johansen line as much as possible last night. I wouldn’t mind going to a match up with 72-15-88 against those guys and try their best to open up the game.
–The Blackhawks need more movement with the puck in the zone. The D have to be activated from the jump in Game 2 in order to create some confusion. They can’t be content to have the majority of their shot attempts come from the point.
–The Neutral zone isn’t going to be open in this series. The Preds seem content, especially if they have a lead, to have four guys back and take away speed. The Hawks need to have a winger flying the zone early and maybe his some stretch passes, or just be content to chip the puck into the zone and set up their attack. Odd man rushes are going to be rare in this series.
–I had a few people chirping me about Rinne as if he put up a similar performance to what Jake Allen had against Minnesota. Rinne was good, but I can’t recall a single “w0w” type save. He’s a professional goalie. He’s going to stop most shots from 45 feet and out. The Blackhawks need to find a way to get inside of the Preds defense, and get to the front of the net. The only memorable chance from that area was Anisimov trying to bat a puck out of mid-air.
Ugly, UGLY game last night, but it’s only one game. The Blackhawks can snatch momentum and control of this series right back in Game 2 on Saturday night. The Preds are willingly playing on their heels and the Blackhawks will eventually make them pay for that. They’re too talented not to. LETS GO. Hawks in 6.