Saturday, April 18, 2015

Predators Even the Series, Shell the Blackhawks 6-2

The Nashville Predators evened their first round series with the Chicago Blackhawks by pummeling them 6-2 in front of a raucous packed house at Bridgestone Arena.

Colin Wilson continued his torrid play, tallying a power play goal. Craig Smith notched two goals; Filip Forsberg scored his first playoff goal; Roman Josi and Mike Santorelli added goals as the Predators showed that the gut wrenching double overtime loss didn't set them back.

Some observations:

  • Colin Wilson must feel like he has gotten the 8,000 pound gorilla off his back with his play in the first two games. He is dynamic with the puck and finding the back of the net, scoring two goals in game one and adding another goal in this game. Wilson had been invisible over the last 22 games of the season, but it is certainly good to see Wilson picking his game up in the post season.
  • Craig Smith has always been a streaky scorer, and tonight he got his first goal in his past 10 games going back to the regular season. His second goal was pure speed combined with determination as he split two defenders to score. If Smith can get on another hot streak, it bodes well for the Predators. I like Smith's hustle and willingness to shoot the puck, and he had a stellar game tonight with 4 points (2G-2A). Now if he can just consistently find the net.
  • The Predators lost Shea Weber midway of the second period as he was hit and went down awkwardly in the corner. Weber limped to the bench and went straight down the tunnel. This would be a huge loss for the Predators if he cannot return in this series.
  • The loss of Weber meant the Predators played half the game with just 5 defensemen. Big props to the blueliners as they stepped their game up and played some solid defense. Roman Josi led the D corps with 24:31 of ice time.
  • Speaking of Josi, his goal late in the first period was a beauty. He skated through the entire Blackhawks team before firing a shot from the faceoff circle that found the back of the net with 3.6 seconds left on the clock. One of Josi's strengths is his calmness with the puck. His puck handling skills are superb and his ability to keep calm and maneuver to open ice were on display on this goal.
  • The Blackhawks second goal was scored by Patrick Kane when the Blackhawks clearly had 6 men on the ice. Head Coach Peter Laviolette was furious by got no relief from the officials. If the NHL wants to be taken seriously and not viewed as a minor sport, there is going to have to be integrity and significant improvement with the officiating.
  • The Hawks have taken a page out of the Anaheim Ducks playbook. Down late in the game, they decided to goon it up. The Predators showed remarkable poise and didn't retaliate but didn't back down either. Look for this series to get nastier the longer it goes.
  • Finally- the Predators played a second period with emotion and intensity. The middle frame has been the bane of the Predators for a while. Good to see them come out with a good response in the second.
  • Big ups to the Predators 7th man. The barn was rocking all night long and it is obvious that it rattles the Blackhawks and energizes the Predators.
  • Goodness, it would be nice if the Predators could lock down the low slot. Patrick Sharp was left all alone right in front of the crease for an easy goal. Nothing Pekka Rinne could have done about that goal and the defense has to be more aware.
  • Rinne was sharp tonight and made some good saves. Rinne is battling and his effort seems to inspire the team. The more saves that Rinne makes, the more frustrated the Blackhawks become. Rinne became the franchise leader with his 14th post season win.
  • Gotta wonder who Coach Q will have in net on Sunday. Corey Crawford got lit for three goals in 2:19 in the third period and has allowed 9 goals on 47 shots in the first two games. In reality, Crawford has allowed 9 goals in 4 periods of hockey after getting pulled in the first period of game one. 
  • You can't say enough about the Predators penalty kill. After Paul Gaustad took a double minor for high sticking, the Predators PK totally frustrated the Hawks, allowing only one shot on goal over that 4 minute span. That was huge momentum swing for the Predators in this game.
  • The Predators blocked 23 shots tonight and have blocked 55 in the first two games.
  • The goals by Forsberg, Josi, Santorelli, and Smith were their first career post season goals.
This was a huge win for the Predators. Lose tonight and it was going to be a short series. Now the series shifts to Chicago for the next two games and the Predators are going to have to bring a maximum effort to capture a win.

This team has shown they can do that. They have shown they can beat Chicago in a grinding, tough series.

Now they have to do it.

And I believe they can.

My three stars:

1. Craig Smith

2. Filip Forsberg

3. Colin Wilson

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