Sunday, April 19, 2015

Predators Wilt in the Second Period (Again), Fall to the Blackhawks 4-2

A depleted Nashville Predators squad traveled to the United Center for the third game of their first round playoff series. The series is tied at 1 and both teams were looking to establish momentum.

The first first period ended with the game tied at 1. Andrew Desjardins scored for the Hawks, beating Pekka Rinne five hole. Mike Ribeiro immediately answered for the Predators with a shot from the slot that beat Scott Darling glove side.

Jonathan Toews opened the second period by beating Rinne through traffic. 22 seconds later, mattias Ekholm answered with a shot that beat Darling cleanly over the shoulder. Filip forsberg did a great job screening on that shot and Darling never saw it until it was in the net.

Brandon Saad gave the hawks a 3-2 lead, beating Rinne over the blocker. The play was set up when Seth Jones pinched down low and Saad beat Colin Wilson, who was covering the point, back into the the offensive zone.

This time, there was no immediate answer from the Predators, as Brent Seabrook tallied from the blue line to make it 4-2.

Once again, a disastrous second period sunk the Predators.

The Predators couldn't find the net in the third period, and a Mike Ribeiro penalty killed any chance with the extra attacker. The Predators dropped the game 4-2 and trail in the series 2-1.

Some observations:

  • With Shea Weber out of the line up, Victor Bartley drew in and saw his first post season action. Bartley was paired with Cody Franson. Seth Jones took Weber's spot on the number one D pairing with Roman Josi.
  • Great to see Ribeiro shoot the puck. He has too often passed up shots and it was good to see him pull the trigger from the slot and beat Darling from the glove side.
  • I like the response of this team after the Blackhawks scored. Ribeiro's goal came just 31 seconds after the Hawks had taken a 1-0 lead. Ekholm's goal came 22 seconds after Toews had given the Hawks a 2-1 lead. In the playoffs, every team will face adversity. How you respond to that goes a long way toward determining how far you go in the playoffs. The Predators showed they were intimidated by the Hawks or their crowd.
  • The Predators showed some good response, as mentioned, but the pressure from the Hawks started to wear on this young team. The Blackhawks stepped it up after Saad's goal and Rinne was under siege. Rinne was not at his best, but the Predators team in front of him often found themselves hemmed in their own zone after the Hawks started buzzing. This game in particular showed the difference between a veteran team and a very young team with little playoff experience. And once again, an awful second period had bitten the Predators in the ass. As to why this team cannot play solid hockey in the second period, I have no answer. If the Predators cannot figure out how to better compete in the second period, then this will be a short series.
  • The Predators did a good job of getting shots in on Darling, but the better quality chances belonged to the Blackhawks. Rinne had to make some good saves, and yet he struggled with some shots that resulted in goals. Without Mike Fisher and Shea Weber, Rinne is going to have to be exceptional, and he was not in this game.
  • Wins in the playoffs often result from the secondary scoring. The Predators third and fourth lines never really threatened the Hawks net today. They are going to have to pick up their play if the Predators are going to have a chance in this series.
  • Regardless of the score, I certainly like the compete level of Craig Smith. he is not afraid to shoot the puck and goes to the hard areas. He picked up 2 assists today and is the leading scorer in this series.
  • The Predators definitely need more out of James Neal. Neal has been a non-factor so far in this series.
 The Predators now find themselves in a hole and the Blackhawks have the home ice advantage. How the Predators respond in the critical game 4 will tell fans of the Fang how long this series will go.

My three stars:

1. Jonathan Toews

2. Craig Smith

3. Brandon Saad

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