Chicago Blackhawks vs. Nashville Predators – First Round – Game 2
When: 7:00 PM
Where: Chicago, Illinois (United Center)
The Blackhawks head into Game 2 trailing 1-0 in the series after getting shutout 1-0 in Game 1 Thursday night. The Predators made things slower than molasses after taking the lead early in Game 1, and it ended up working out. The only problem with that line of thinking is that slowing things down usually doesn’t lead to success against the Hawks across a seven game series. The teams that have solved the Hawks in the past have fought their fire with fire. The teams that tried to clog things up were all eventually figured out.
With that being said, I think it’s imperative that the Blackhawks score first in Game 2. Now, if they don’t I definitely won’t be freaking out. But scoring first will allow the Hawks to settle in a little bit, and avoid Nashville’s defensive trap that they employed after taking the first lead on Thursday. Even when trailing 1-0 the entire game, the Hawks carried the play all night long, but were stoned by Pekka Rinne. If the Hawks can create more quality chances, and also more second-chance opportunities, look for Rinne to come back down to earth a little bit.
The Preds have to hope that Quenneville doesn’t find a better way to feed on their bottom six this time around. They need their top guys (Arvidsson, Johansen, etc) to take advantage of all the chances they get, and given the Hawks defensive play in Game 1 they may very well get those good chances again.
The Hawks had a rare mid-series practice Friday morning, and Q did some line juggling as Rasmussen was in for Hayden on the fourth line. Hossa sat out for the practice, moving Hartman up to the top line with Toews and Panik to replace Schmaltz. Jurco slid into Hossa’s third line slot, and Tootoo remained down on the fourth line.
One worry we had going into this postseason surrounded the kids’ reactions to their first experience in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Schmaltz, to his own admission, was a little shaky and nervous at the start of Game 1. The result was his butt getting stapled to the bench by Q. Hartman took a dumb penalty, but outside of that looked pretty dang solid, as did Kero after he was moved up to the top line with Toews. Hopefully Schmaltz can settle in here during Game 2, as his presence on the top line gives them a greater side-to-side threat and scoring touch.
As we like to say at our Hawks watch parties, “we need a Philly Game 5 type of first period here.” I expect the Hawks to come out flying, all business. This isn’t a must win game, but it’s pretty dang close.
We’ve seen time and time again that the Blackhawks respond best when their backs are against the wall, and I expect nothing less than the their best in Game 2. Because if they don’t have it going the Preds will make them pay, and then we’ll certainly be in a world of hurt.
Don’t forget to breathe.