Game Day Preview
Nashville Predators @ Chicago Blackhawks
Western Conference Quarterfinal Series, Series Tied 2-2
United Center, 2:21 pm CST
TV: NBC (HD where available) Radio: 104.5 The Zone, Predators Radio Network (1 pm)
Today is a fulcrum point in the series, as have been the last three games, actually. Look at Chicago’s response in Games Two and Four, and you realize that the Hawks are a power team capable of shutting clubs down defensively as well as turning up the offense. Look at Games One and Three and you see that Nashville can get the job done by limiting Chicago’s chances, getting solid goaltending from Pekka Rinne
and offensive contributions from everywhere.
If the series holds the current pattern, it’s Nashville’s turn today in front of a nationwide TV audience. Twice the Preds have now been blanked in the series. The first time they responded with its best effort of the young series by beating the Blackhawks 4-1 in Nashville. Then Chicago got its dander up and responded with its best game of the series in a 3-0 win on Thursday! What else can we expect today? Quite possibly the best game we’ve seen so far between two very determined teams.
For Nashville, Pekka Rinne
has continued to play well, and I can’t really fault him on the goals Chicago scored in Game Four. He is the reason the Predators have a chance to win every time out. When David Legwand
has played well in the series, he has been a dominant figure in Games One and Three. Could he do so again today? Also, look for Jason Arnott to break out at some point during the series. The battle-tested playoff veteran has to chip in at some point in the series, and perhaps today is the game.
For Chicago, what a wake up call for players named Sharp and Toews Game Four turned out to be. Well, I’ll give Toews a pass, unlike most of the rest of the media. I felt he’s been generating opportunities if not outright scoring chances with his slick and slippery skating and puckhandling. Truth be told, there were plenty of times I held my breath early in the series when he got the puck. I’m just hoping he didn’t get too big a shot in the arm Thursday night.
Plus, the Preds have to test Antti Niemi more. Yes, we had 33 shots in the game, but I can’t honestly say I felt like we had more than a handful of quality scoring opportunities. It just felt to me as if the Predators were unable to find those second and third chances that lead to playoff goals. Beating a goaltender the first time around in the post-season is a rare feat if you’re not in alone.
I’m going to try to give some karma to the good guys and look for a Preds road win today. Winning once in Chicago is tough enough, but Nashville needs to do it one more time to take the series. Today is the day!Notes:
Keys to the Game
- Jordin Tootoo “should be available” according to Barry Trotz despite taking a puck in the face during Game Four and receiving over 40 stitches.
- Antti Niemi’s two playoff shutouts lead post-season goaltenders, and the last time Chicago had two shutouts in a playoff series was courtesy of Tony Esposito back in 1974.
- Nashville has announced the start time for Game Six back at Bridgestone Arena on Monday as an 8 pm start time. Tickets are on sale now through the team box office, www.nashvillepredators.com <http://www.nashvillepredators.com> , and all TicketMaster locations.
- Preds forward Patric Hornqvist is still listed as day-to-day with an upper body injury. He did practice with the team yesterday.
- Effort must be there. The Preds need to ramp back up to the state they were in for Game Three when they overpowered the Blackhawks for the win. Yes, Chicago gets credit for upping its game the next time out, but the Predators have to know and expect that – and match it.
- Jam the crease. Antti Niemi was too comfortable in making his 33 saves on Thursday. Life needs to get a lot more difficult for the Hawks rookie netminder. He’s still young, and the Preds can still rattle him.