Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Predators In a Deep Hole, Fall to the Blackhawks 3-2 in Triple OT.

The Nashville Predators trail the Chicago Blackhawks in their first round series by a 2-1 margin. To say that game Four at the United Center was a huge game for the Predators is an understatement of Brobdingnagian proportions.

A spirited and fast paced first period saw both teams go to the locker room having tallied once.

Colin Wilson redirected a Ryan Ellis shot past Scott Darling with the Predators on the power play to give the Predators a 1-0 lead.

The Hawks answered with a shot that was redirected by Antoine Vermette to knot the game at 1. Vermette's goal was his first of the series.

James Neal got his first goal of the playoffs as he corralled a loose puck and slid it off the skate of Duncan Keith and past Darling to give the Predators a 2-1 lead late in the second period.

Brandon Saad was left all alone in the slot and he blasted a puck past Pekka Riine to tie the game at 2 midway of the third period.

With neither team able to score in the remainder of the period, the teams went to overtime for the second time in this series.

These teams must really like playing each other, because the first OT wasn't enough to decide the game. For the second time in four games, the Predators and Hawks would go to double overtime.

Guess what?

That wasn't enough hockey for these two teams either.

Off to triple overtime.

And in the triple OT session, Brent Seabrook ended 1 minute in with a shot that eluded Rinne to give the Blackhawks a 3-2 victory. Rinne was screened by Brian Bickell on the shot from the blue line and he never saw the shot until it went in the net.

Some observations:

  • Kevin Fiala saw his first post season action. Taylor Beck was scratched to make room for Fiala. Fiala is the 6th youngest player in League history to play in the post season. Fiala started the game on a line with Calle Jarnkrok and James Neal.
  • Colin Wilson got the tip in front off the Ryan Ellis shot for his 4th goal of the series. Wilson has come alive in the post season, and this is obviously good for the Predators. Wilson went to the hard area in front of the net on the power play and was rewarded for his efforts. This is the kind of play the Predators need to consistently see from Wilson and it is good to see him step up on the big stage. Wilson goal came on the power play, and he has 3 of his 4 goals on the man advantage.
  • The Predators iced a depleted line up without Shea Weber and Mike Fisher, two big losses for the team. Regardless, I liked the hustle and the effort of the Predators. The Blackhawks are clearly a more talented team, but the Predators didn't back down in the face of a hostile crowd or the pressure of the Hawks. The young players on the ice had to grow up quickly, and they did just that.
  • Viktor Stalberg has played a solid series against the Hawks. We are seeing flashes of his skill and he is not afraid to throw the body around. I would really like to see Stalberg live up to his potential in these playoffs and in the coming season.
  • James Neal notched his first goal of the playoffs, and it was good to see him get on the score sheet. Neal played a solid game all night, hustling, hitting, and fighting for the puck. This is the kind of play the Predators need from Neal if they are going to win this series.
  • Two Predator players that stood out to me in this game were Gabby Bourque and Ryan Ellis. Bourque was a demon on the forecheck and was physical all night. Bourque doesn't often find the score sheet, but he plays with heart and passion, and I love that about his game. The mini-me D man, Ellis, also had a strong game. He was directly responsible for the Predators first goal, getting his shot from the point to the net. Ellis lacks size, but he is a very smart player and uses his hockey smarts to get into position in the offensive and defensive zone and generates a lot of offense from the blue line.
  • The Hawks are a dangerous team throughout their line up and they made the Predators pay on Brandon Saad's goal. The defense was drawn to the puck carrier and Saad was alone in the high slot. His shot was blistered past Rinne and was perfectly placed inside the post.
  •  While Rinne has struggled in this series, his save on Marian Hossa with about 5 seconds remaining in regulation was amazing. It was a beauty of a stop that Predator fans have become used to seeing to keep the Predators in a game.
  • And Rinne made some great stops in overtime as well. This team really needs Rinne to get his mojo back, and hopefully those quality saves will help his confidence.
  • I have seen pucks get lost in equipment before, but the one that got lost in Rinne's gear stayed hidden for about as long as I have seen a puck stay lost.
  • Fatigue really played a factor as the OT sessions wore on. On the Seabrook game winner, no one attempted to move Bickell out of front of Rinne and the screen was perfect for the shot to sneak through.
The Predators competed and competed well, but they were not good enough to win this game. They had their chances but let the Hawks hang around and capture a critical win.

Their backs are really against the wall. Can they fight back and extend this series or will it be a disappointing first round exit?

We will find out what the team is made of Thursday night.

My three stars:

1. Brent Seabrook

2. Colin Wilson

3. Scott Darling

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