Blackhawks 3, Predators 0

How’s that for a dramatic turn of events?  With the Blackhawks trailing the opening series 2-1 to the Nashville Predators, leading up to game four, Coach Joel Quenneville straddled the line between “playoff adjustments” and “panic.”  As the Hawks tightened their stranglehold on the Predators early in the second, it was clear Q was on the right side of the line.

As for his adjustments, Q scratched Ben Eager and Colin Fraser, dismantling the fourth line that played most of the regular season.  The fourth line had a strong run during the couple weeks leading up to the playoffs, but were unable to replicate their successes.  In their place came Brian Bickell and Adam Burish.  Bickell saw time on the first line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, while Burish took his rightful place on the fourth line – this time along side center John Madden and winger Troy Brouwer. 

Patrick Sharp moved to center to play between the Slovaks; and Bolland, Ladd and Versteeg spent the night together, figuratively speaking.

Of course, on the back end, Brian Campbell made his glorious return well ahead of schedule, which forced Jordan Hendry to the press box.  (Hendry still managed two turnovers.)

It’s not hard to see the theory behind the shake-up: the Hawks have run into a deeper team, something of an oddity for them.  The Predators have four lines that contribute offensively, and the Hawks’ fourth line of Fraser, Eager and Kopecky did little during the series’ first three games.  Adding Bickell and Burish adds a bit of offensive flare to the line-up and allowed Q to spread the scoring a bit.  Fighting fire with fire, as they say.

It didn’t take long for the Hawks to exert control.  About midway through the first – and fresh from the penalty box himself – Patrick Sharp hammered home a Patrick Kane second chance while standing at the doorstep.  Kane’s second chance came off a long rebound from a Duncan Keith point shot.

Then, in a five-minute span during the second, the Hawks pulled away.  First, Marian Hossa sent a shot/pass to the net on a 2-on-2 with Toews.  While the pass didn’t make it through, an aggressive Toews whacked in the sitting puck for a two-goal lead.

Next, just a few minutes later, Patrick Sharp entered the Predator zone with speed, moving across-ice.  In on three men alone, Sharp let a laser beam of a wrister off from about 15 feet inside the blue line, which beat Pekka Rinne with ease.  It was Sharp’s second of the game.

The Hawks wouldn’t look back.

Yo, Listen Up!

– Something of a statistical oddity Thursday night: each team had eleven shots in each of the third periods, save the Hawks eight-shot effort in the third.

– After all this time, the unlikely has become fact: Patrick Sharp is a better center than a winger.  Who knew?  Fresh off a couple lenghty stints at center during the past couple seasons, Sharp – and the fans – seemed eager to get back to wing permanently, but his production and impact slowed.  Within ten minutes of being moved back to the middle – albeit on the power play – Sharp tallied his first goal of the playoffs.  Late in the second he added his second of a fantastic individual play.

– Brent Sopel is either stupid or crazy, though I suppose he could be both.  During Nashville’s first period 5-on-3, Sopel drew the “stand in front of Shea Weber and drop to a knee every time he shoots” card.  Naturally, Sopel willingly dropped to a knee while sideways some twenty feet in front of Weber a few times during the kill and lived to tell about it.

– Pat and Eddie were particularly annoying at times yesterday evening.  I especially liked the part were Edzo talked about his summertime youth hockey camp for four minutes during play of an NHL playoff game.  No truth to the rumor that John is posing as a 15-year old during the first week in July.

– Watching Rinne, who’s generally a “plus” puck-handler, play pucks makes me wonder why the NHL doesn’t allow goalies to play pucks in the corners.

– In Campbell’s first game back, he was generally good in 14 minutes.  The odd part was Nashville’s inability to pound the man who had a couple fractures in his shoulder area a few weeks ago.  Don’t count on that happening again on Saturday.

– There’s been a Jonathan Toews sighting!

– It sounded like somebody ran over a tennis ball with a Cadillac when a slap shot rang off Jordan Tootoo’s face during the third period.  Youch.

– Though the Hawks were outshot 33-30, they seemingly cut the Predator scoring chances in half.  I think the Hawks are just beginning to feel the positive impact of not having to play Jordan Hendry 12 minutes a night.

– Hope you didn’t blink during that third period.  It was over in a flash.

– Finally, you know what they say about these game fours: it’s usually a good indicator of who will win the series.

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16 Responses to Blackhawks 3, Predators 0

  1. dominator says:

    I have no idea how you could mix up Rinne and Niemi but Foley has done it at least twice in every game I’ve watched on TV.

  2. feyer says:

    Not only did Hendry see far less time on the ice with the return of Campbell, but Buff saw far less as well – only 10 minutes. 24 minutes for Sopel. I don’t know what to think of that.

  3. illinikc33 says:

    Foley & Edzo are really, really pissing me off. I completely agree w/ the stupid hockey camp thing during the goddamn playoffs. Outrageous. Come back from commercial 30 seconds earlier and talk about it. Ridiculous.

  4. Patrick says:

    The Blackhawks best players played like they were the best players out there (which they are), and they won. Do this again…

  5. Dale Halas says:

    All you need to know about the Preds/Hawks series so far is this. When Coach Q opened the game with the Hawks third line of Ladd, Bolland and Versteeg, Trotz responded by playing his third line.

    When the Hawks showed that they were no longer vulnerable in that matchup, Trotz started playing Legwand equally against all three lines. Legwand’s line still won the corsi numbers but couldn’t score. And so far without them scoring the Preds are vulnerable as two shutouts have shown.

    I’ve said all year that the Hawks team doesn’t fit together very well. In particular the center that this team needs to play in between Sharp and Kane isn’t on the team. They really need one of those “power forward” type centers, you know, a Tony O’s brother type. However, without that player, this current lineup makes the most sense to me.

    Sure if Brouwer hadn’t lost his mind he would be playing LW on Toews line. And if KJ hadn’t gotten hurt Buf would be playing with Burish on the fourth as well. But overall, this is the way I would do it.

    Having Sharp at center gives them the best 1-4 center toughness that the Hawks need. It’s why I was pretty confident going into game 4 and why I am much more confident going into the remaining games…

  6. John says:

    It has been spoken…

  7. AC says:

    I still feel that we haven’t seen a really good game out of this team yet, but that may just be due to the shifting and injuries. I was happy to see Sharp back at C for Hossa and hope that this is something that continues throughout the playoffs. Hopefully, this will be the kick in the pants needed to get Toews and keeping going and they will start playing the way they should. Given the talent on this team, there is no reason that the passing should be so poor, enough with the passing to the skates, especially on open ice.

  8. JimH says:

    I’m beginning to think Sopel has a deathwish with his “drop-to-a-knee-turn-head-sideways” routine on the power play. He does have huge stones to do that though.

    I watched the Nash telecast and while they have horrible cameramen who can’t follow the puck for the most part, they had a behind the goal camera that they used for the majority of the 2 man advantage and it was excellent. You could really see Niemi moving and looking between the bodies in front of him to try to get the right angle and you could follow the puck with no problem. That’s the type of TV coverage that would make hockey much more interesting to the average viewer. If I was Gary Bettman I would demand that every NHL broadcast be in HD (its not on Center Ice with my provider – Time Warner) and develop new camera positioning so viewers get a better sense of the speed of the game. Then I would go throw up because I am Gary Bettman.

  9. Lee says:

    Watched the Ice Hogs last game and they were just plain destroyed by the Texas Stars. Based on that I assume they are eliminated tonight and I wonder who the Blackhawks will bring up and if any of them have a chance to get in the playoffs. John, you are always on top of the prospects, whats your feel here?

  10. tom says:

    OK, so the hockey camp infomercial was off the charts bad – and Pat’s definitely getting pretty scary on the names (hope he’s getting regular check-ups) – but I’ll still take those guys (and even Stacey King for that matter) over the boring white bread most of the rest of the world has to listen to on local broadcasts. (Somebody please tell Edzo to hide Doc Emrick’s flash-card deck of verbs next time he works with him. ) If you need someone to describe the action so you’ll know what’s going on, what are you doing here?

  11. John says:

    There’s a difference between needing someone to describe the action and being over-the-top aggravating. I felt like the two crossed the line more so than any other game last night. Or maybe it’s because we were all so high strung while watching the game that any little comment annoyed us. That could’ve been it. Either way, I found myself getting more upset at Pat and Eddie’s conversations than any Byfuglien giveaway.

  12. Nick says:

    Good call on the Foley/Edzo nonsense. I know most people have been ragging on them since last season, but I figured they were just trying to lighten it up a bit for all the newbie fans so I was willing to give it a pass.

    They crossed the line with all that garbage during an NHL playoff game. Unacceptable. And as dominator said, Foley has mixed up Niemi and Rinne at least 4 times during each game. How hard is it to remember your own goalie Foley? He also called Burish “Byfuglien” a couple of times as well.

  13. Nick says:

    Just taking a look at all the stats, Duncs has got to be the hands down Norris winner. He was 1st among all D-men in goals and points at even strength and blocked 143 shots. Not to mention he was second only to the immortal Joni Pitkanen in average ice time.

    Has he had his mental lapses? Yes, but what player doesn’t? Would you rather have Mike Green’s absolute unwillingness to actually play D?

    Doughty, is not a bad choice, but c’mon, he’ll win the Norris for the next decade.

  14. Dave Morris says:

    Mr Niemi is currently the leader among playoff goaltenders.

    GAA:1.51
    SV%: .948
    Shutouts: 2

    He is the first Hawk goalie to have a pair of zeros in the postseason since Tony O in ’74.

    If the Blackhawks can put together this good a game tomorrow, they might just be able to take this series.

    PS having Mr Bickell in the lineup seems to have added some useful nastiness.

    And having Mr. Campbell back has helped as well. Guess that’s why everybody was ready to pay him the big loot.

  15. Big Tony says:

    I was hella-impressed with Bickell last night. I enjoyed watching him crash the net when he had the chance.

    I think whoever wins tomorrow wins the series. I have a hunch the Hawks will have the best of it tomorrow and close it out Monday night. Typical of rotten scheduling, my daughter’s softball season opens at 8 pm that night.

  16. Razzberry says:

    Have your hearts started beating again, gentlemen?

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