In an elimination game, there are a handful of things a team cannot do if they hope to extend their season. Unfortunately for the Predators, they were guilty of two deadly sins in the first period:
A horrible goal allowed and giving up a goal in the final minute of a period. Both goals came shortly after the Predators had just tied the game.
With the score 1-1, Jonathan Toews won a neutral zone face-off to Brent Seabrook. His dump-in caught Patrick Kane’s skate and headed right towards the middle of the net. Meanwhile, Pekka Rinne was on his way to the corner to slow down the puck. He couldn’t get back in time and the Hawks went back in front 2-1.
Then just a few seconds after Jason Arnott scored his second goal of the game to tie the game at 3, the Hawks drew a penalty. On the ensuing face-off, Duncan Keith fired a shot towards the net; Jonathan Toews scooped up the rebound and it was 4-3 with 30 seconds left in the period.
To make matters worse for Nashville, they gave the Hawks 10 minutes on the power play in the second period. The Hawks couldn’t capitalize on any of the man-advantages, however. So early in the third, the Predators had three straight power plays and scored on none of them.
Chalk up another deadly sin and it’s no mystery as to why the Nashville Predators are no longer playing hockey.
It wasn’t that simple, of course. The Hawks still had to withstand a nasty barrage of chances at the end of the game including a mad flurry with less than 30 seconds left that saw three Predators standing in front of Antti Niemi and only Duncan Keith nearby to help defend.
Somehow, Niemi turned the chance away and Jonathan Toews flipped a back-hander to center ice. John Madden won the foot race and buried the puck into the empty net to close out the series.
It’s on to the Vancouver Canucks for the second straight year.
–An incredible game for the Blackhawks top two centers: Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews. Sure, Sharp may leave something to be desired in the face-off dot, but it’s debateable how important that is anyway. Toews, on the other hand, was the total package tonight. Stellar in all three zones and won two huge face-offs against Jason Arnott in the final minute of regulation.
Both players registered a goal and two assists.
—Adam Burish should have a better series against the Vancouver Canucks. The Predators were a tough match-up for the Hawks 4th line as there was no discernable difference between their 2nd line and 4th. Therefore, the lesser talent on the Hawks had a helluva time trying to keep up. The Canucks, on the other hand, have a pretty significant drop-off in talent from their 2nd line to the 4th.
–If Dustin Byfuglien can’t play for more than 9 minutes a night on defense, then he needs to move back to forward. Especially with Roberto Luongo looming, Byfuglien will be an x-factor in this next series. Not utilizing that when Jordan Hendry can do exactly what Byfuglien is currently doing would be a mistake.
That being said, I fully expect for Byfuglien to start off the series on defense. If things don’t go as planned, I’d expect that positional switch to be Joel Quenneville’s first major adjustment.
–One of the most unbelieveable plays you’ll ever want to see happened in the second period. Off an offensive zone face-off, Brian Campbell’s slap shot snapped his stick in two. Martin Erat picked up the puck and appeared to be heading the other way on a 2-on-1. In an incredibly heady play, Duncan Keith immediately handed Campbell his stick from the bench and he recovered enough to slow down the odd-man rush Nashville had going the other way. Maybe it was a small little incident that wasn’t a big deal, but to me, that’s a championship play.
–Give credit to Kris Versteeg and Brent Seabrook. Versteeg sacrificed life and limb after a horrible giveaway in the third. His defensive zone flip was snagged by Shea Weber and Versteeg dove right in front it to prevent the puck from getting to the net. Seabrook also jumped in front of a Weber shot after Keith couldn’t clear the puck during a penalty kill in the third.
–In the second period, Troy Brouwer and Adam Burish came in on a 2-on-1 only to have the play whistled dead because Nashville had too many men on the ice. First of all, the outrage was pretty funny considering it was Burish who was leading the rush. Secondly, I think it was the right call by the officials. I couldn’t find it anywhere in my brief glance through the rule book, but I’m almost positive that too many men penalties are whistled dead as soon as an official spots it; not delayed whistle penalties like all others. Feel free to dispute that.
—Marian Hossa is a monster. He single-handedly created the Hawks third goal when he bulldozed his way through the Predator defense. For all the criticism, Hossa finished the series with a goal and 6 assists. More of that, please.