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Shot Blocking Helps Preds Deliver Win in Game One

Nashville Blocked 26 Shots in Game One, A Crucial Factor in the Victory

by Brooks Bratten @brooksbratten / Communications & Content Coordinator

Pekka Rinne stopped all 29 shots the Chicago Blackhawks were able to get through to him in Game One, but the goaltender's Nashville Predators teammates prevented plenty more from finding a way through.

The Preds recorded 26 blocked shots in total during their 1-0 win over Chicago on Thursday night to begin the Round One series, the highest total of any of the 16 teams through one game in the playoffs.

It's a statistic that tells Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette two things: one, his club spent too much time in their own zone, but secondly, his players were willing to do whatever it took to take a 1-0 series lead.

"It's a good stat to show the courage of our guys willing to block shots," Laviolette said on Friday at the United Center. "I do think it's an important thing in the playoffs, and as time grows and you move on in rounds, those numbers even go up, I think. There's more of that desperation that goes into it, but I do think our guys did a good job of putting themselves in front of the puck last night."

The numbers also show defenseman Roman Josi was the best at getting in front of the puck, leading the team with five blocked shots in Game One. He says the practice isn't so much of an art form, but rather a simple mindset that comes with the position.

"You're always trying to get in that shooting lane," Josi said. "Sometimes it hurts, but every guy on this team is willing to block shots. You have to block shots in this League, especially in the playoffs. Every team does it, and makes it so much harder on the other team."

Defenseman Matt Irwin turned aside three Chicago opportunities in Game One, and it's not always off a part of the body. Oftentimes, the Nashville blueliners are able to get their sticks in lanes and deflect shots out of harm's way, another tactic that, when done correctly, can be incredibly effective.

"It just kind of comes with the feel of the game or the situation," Irwin said. "Off the rush, you want to have good sticks, a lot of those blocks are with your stick, and then boxing out and getting good position on guys when the pucks at the point. Sometimes when they're throwing a soft wrister, you're able to front it and have the transition to offense.

"So for us defensemen, to get sticks on those kind of plays, we'll explode the puck and give us a chance to breakout."

No matter how it happened in Game One, it got the job done. The Predators say they expect nothing but Chicago's best in Game Two on Saturday night, and as is the case at this juncture of the season, it could come down to a last-second stick, skate or shin pad in the way to save the day.

"You do anything you can do to help the team win," defenseman Ryan Ellis said. "It's going to come down to the little things, and blocked shots are a big part of that. It's not something everyone wants to do, but at the end of the day, it makes a big difference."

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