Game One: Predators 4, Blackhawks 1

It was a long night in the United Center, as the upstart, seventh-seeded Nashville Predators essentially outlasted the mighty Blackhawks to take game one of series one.  As it’s already well into Saturday morning, I’ll assume each of you has seen the game or read other recaps, so we’ll skip the pleasentries.

As always, there’s good news and there’s bad news.  Let’s take a deep breath and go with the good first.

The Good News

– In games two yesterday evening, series favorites Detroit, San Jose, New Jersey and Pittsburgh won after each surrendered game one.  In the end, though game one is always important, it seems all the Hawks have done is miss an opportunity to play a short series. 

– I thought Antti Niemi played well.  Yes, the first goal was a bad one – probably more flukey than anything – but Niemi seemed to answer the bell, making a few big stops and generally keeping the Hawks in it.  He’ll be fine. 

The Bad News

– Many people have said during the past couple seasons that playing an overly physical game is the way to beat the Hawks.  That’s absolutely incorrect, and one needn’t look further than last year’s first two rounds against Calgary and Vancouver – not to mention every game against the Blues during the past two seasons.  The way to beat the Hawks during that time – as many others have opined – is to play a disciplined game in the defensive and neutral zones, taking away the Hawks’ strengths, and to make good on a couple opportunities along the way.

Enter stage left, Nashville Predators.  What makes them difficult is their ability to play disciplined and aggressive hockey at the same time.  It’s a bit like walking and chewing gum at the same time.

– The best defense is a good offense, and the Preds’ forecheck yesterday evening was downright fantastic.  Most notably, the Predators get each forward involved, and the defensemen seem to get involved more often than not as well.  The Hawk wingers were out-classed by the Predator defensemen much of the evening; they’ll need to be lower in the breakout tomorrow, so as to (i) invite Predator defensemen too low and (ii) be able to catch a pass and make a play before being engaged by a defenseman.

This means that Marian Hossa will actually have to step foot in the defensive zone on the breakout.

– In that same vein, the Hawks’ third pairing was bad.  At points, it seemed like there was a better chance that John would become an astronaut than the Hawks would be able to break the puck out with the third pairing on the ice.

The mistake by Troy Brouwer in the third – to cough up the puck in the Hawks zone while rejecting an easy opportunity to step it out – was a very bad one.  At the least, he needs to be aware that Sopel and Hendry were having trouble and that the pressure needed to be alleviated.

– During the past week of the regular season, the Hawks’ power play was better; most notably, they zone entries were much better than they were prior to that.  During game one, the zone entry seemed predictable and was mostly unsuccessful.  And, unless the Hawks plan on scoring from the neutral zone on the power play, the zone entry will have to be better on Sunday.

– Remember, the Hawks advantage over Nashville is its ability to score goals.  Playing in one-goal, low scoring games plays right into the hands of the Preds.

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5 Responses to Game One: Predators 4, Blackhawks 1

  1. jamie says:

    i agree that brouwer’s turnover was awful, but I would like to also point out that sopel skated right past the net on that goal and if he had stopped in front of the net, as he is supposed to in that situation, he would have been able to clear the puck. fortunately, that’s correctable.

    and sharp must bury more of his chances. he misses on way too many great opportunities.

  2. vito says:

    is that the best the hawks can do ? does Q and his assistants have an answer? this is were we find out how good this coach and team is. The preds do play the trap better than any team in the league and the hawks had trouble all year against trap style have the hawks tried to figure out how to play it. is the trap style unstoppable? but it is terrible to watch you need alot of caffeine to keep up with the whole game

  3. Dave Morris says:

    Great recap, gentlemen.

    Fluke goals, near misses, scrambles, bouncing pucks, the trap…all the fun of post-season hockey.

    The Blackhawks are still a young team. A well-coached club like Nashville with veteran guys like Arnott, Sullivan, Dumont, Ward and Bouillon who buy into, and execute ‘the system’, will always be tough to beat in a playoff game.

    Chicago has to trust their own coaches, and their own game plan, and stick to it.

    Keep it simple.

    Like Quenneville said, it’s a “hard game” now. No fluff allowed.

  4. Otter says:

    Didn’t watch the game and only heard the third on the radio so I’ll refrain from any comments about the game itself…

    But from a more general manner, does the NHL have a problem on it’s hands? The Caps, Pens, Hawks, and Sharks all lost Game One of their series. All of them play hockey that is fun and interesting and you’d pay to see. The Sens, Preds, and Avs? Not so much (The Habs are fun to watch imo).

    I guess my point in all this is… is this just a fluke and will the good teams (as shown over 82 games) win out or are we stuck with this boring, mid-90s Devils crap again? If two or three of these teams go down because of utterly boring, neural zone hockey… I’m not going to be too happy. And I’m sure the TV ratings will be the dame. They might need to fix this. If four teams that were CLEARLY better in the regular season all go down (or even 3 of the 4), then what’s the point of the regular season? In no other sport do we see the top teams from the regular season go down to teams that appear to be inferior. No disrespect to the Preds or Habs, but the Hawks and Caps are clearly better than those two teams (and I’m pulling for the Habs big time since the GF is a fan). What’s the point of the regular season or having a more talented team if in the playoffs the better teams can’t win?

    Okay over reaction over. Let’s win tomorrow and forget I ever said this.

  5. Dave Morris says:

    “Playoff Ugly”–my take on the series, for your reading pleasure:
    http://hockeyindependent.com/blog/david-morris/14450/

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