Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Keep the pedal to the metal. Many of these guys have played tons of hockey over the last several years. So it’s not surprising the ’Hawks may ease up from time to time mid-game. They received two pretty good reasons why they shouldn’t do so against Nashville. The first two ’Hawks’ leads in Game 3 lasted a combined 53 seconds. If the Preds were on home ice, the game could have ended very differently. So it’d be in the ’Hawks’ best interest to keep it in gear throughout their remaining contests against the Preds (and beyond).
Da Windy City
Get ready for an early attack. The poorly kept secret is out that the Preds aren’t very good in the second period. The ’Hawks have scored seven of their 10 goals in this series in the middle frame. This was also an issue for the Preds in the regular season, although they allowed about as many strikes in the second period as the third. What’s clear from all this, however, is that the Preds have success jumping on their foes in the opening frame. We’ve certainly seen that against the ’Hawks, as the Preds have scored six of their 11 goals in the first 20 minutes.
So, now that the Preds should be a little more accustomed to how raucous the United Center can be, expect them to come out flying like they did in Game 1. This applies even more with Nashville trailing in the series and wanting to make it a best of three with two games on home ice. Keeping things simple on offense will go a long way toward negating defensive pressure (looking at you, Kris Versteeg). Another tactic would be to just send what the Preds are dishing out right back at them. The ’Hawks shouldn’t fly out of position for hits, but they should hold tight to the attacking Preds and try to stand up their entries at the blue line, as they did in Game 3. Weather the storm, get to the second period and we’re likely to see more ’Hawks success.
Really, keep it simple. Good news, Chicagoans: The Bulls went up 2-0 on Milwaukee in their NBA first-round playoff series Monday. Bad news: That game was at the UC, and the ice tonight will probably suck because of it. It’s nothing against the guys and gals who work so hard to get the venue ready for hockey, then basketball, then hockey on three consecutive nights, but it has to be hard to make perfect ice in that scenario. So those fancy stretch and drop passes the ’Hawks seem to enjoy employing should probably be kicked to the curb, especially later in each period. Sure, they work sometimes, but with the existing potential for the puck to hop wildly throughout the night, basic tape-to-tape jobs and carrying/dumping the puck into the offensive zone should be more frequently considered.
Attack Pekka Rinne as often as possible. This tweet from The Committed Indian, seen at right, is absolutely hilarious. It also brings up a really crucial point. The ’Hawks need to continue to fire the puck in on the Preds’ Scandinavian Sensation (copyrighted). They should focus low and at his pads, as that is a prime way to create rebounds, but shooting most anywhere on Rinne (glove area excluded) at this point should be encouraged. He’s doing a lot of flailing and punching at pucks that come up near his chest or higher — it’s surprising he hasn’t fallen over once or twice doing this.
If you take a look at the highlight package from Game 3, Andrew Shaw’s first-period scoring chance is a prime example of Rinne’s odd activity in this series. The man just doesn’t look comfortable. So the ’Hawks need to keep firing on him. They should do it with a purpose, of course. Winging it in lazily from 60 feet out isn’t going to put Rinne under any real stress. But getting to scoring areas and letting it go should be readily attempted.