The Nashville Predators knew that they would be in a battle in the second game of their playoff series with the Chicago Blackhawks. Embarrassed 4-1 in their first game, the Blackhawks were going to come out with a better push and with more aggressiveness in an attempt to even the series. That aggressiveness and drive was on display all night as the Hawks blanked the Predators 2-0.
Frankly, the score could have been much worse except for the outstanding play of Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne. He made some unbelievable stops tonight to keep the game from getting out of hand. Unfortunately, the Predators wasted this effort from Rinne as the offense could not solve Hawk netminder Antti Niemi.
The game opened with the Blackhawks flying and putting pressure on the Nashville defense the entire first period.The Hawks kept Nashville on their heels for most of the period and outshot the Predators 13-5. It was a relief to hear the horn sound at the end of the first knowing that the Predators had taken the best effort from the Blackhawks and had weathered a ferocious storm.
The Hawks continued their pressure in the second, and in that period outshot the Predators 13-7. The Hawks were finally able to crack the wall that Rinne had put up when Dave Bolland scored on the power play at 8:44 of the period. Rinne was able to make a stop but could not control the rebound. Bolland was able to find the puck in a scramble a slide it into the net.
Chicago used the penalties that the Predators committed to get on the board first. Uncharacteristically for the Predators, they took seven penalties in this game, and it seemed to take the wind out of the sails of the Predators. Although they were able to kill off 6 of the seven man advantages that the Hawks had, it killed the offensive flow and momentum that the Predators needed.
With the score 1-0 heading in to the third period, there were hopes that the Predators could repeat their performance from the first game when they erupted for four goals. That would be thwarted when Dan Hamhuis was caught pinching on the boards and Patrick "20 Cent" Kane was able to control the puck and start up the ice with a two on break. Kevin Klein was back and got caught in no man's land as he neither took the pass or the shooter. 20 Cent ripped a shot that went under the arm of Pekka Rinne for the second Hawks goal, and that was all they would need to put on the board for the victory.
The troubling aspect of this game was that the Predator offense did not generate many chances tonight. In the third period, they outshot the Hawks 11-7, but for the game were outshot 33-23. Save for one glorious scoring chance by Dustin Boyd on which Niemi made a spectacular save, the Predators didn't challenge the Chicago netminder to make great saves.
Here are the shot totals for the game for the forwards: Arnott 3: Tootoo 3; Smithson 2; Wilson 2; Boyd 2; Sullivan 1; Erat 1; Dumont 0; Legwand 0; Ward 0; Goc 0; Spaling 0. This is unacceptable.
This team has to shoot the puck and get the dirty goals off rebounds and work in front of the net. Tonight, that was mostly non-existent.
Yes, Patric Hornqvist was missing due to injury, but Hornqvist makes his living by getting those dirty goals. Frankly, guys, if you don't shoot the puck, no one gets the dirty goals.
This effort was definitely not the effort that you put forth in game 1. You know they effort has to be better. You know you have to be stronger. You know your heart has to be bigger.
Face it, you are playing a more talented team, but you have shown that not only can you play with this team, you can beat them.
So now you come back home with a split of the games in Chicago. You have learned to win on the road in the playoffs. You have learned that you can absorb the Hawks best punch and still survive. You have learned that this is a series you can win.
Come back into your barn and take control of this series. Play with fire, play with effort.
Most of all, play with heart.
It's time to bring it on your home ice.