Apr 19, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Saad (20) steals the puck from Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) during the second period in game three of the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
The ups and downs of a Stanley Cup Playoff series are enough to drive a fan mad. However, right now, the fans of the Chicago Blackhawks have to be feeling pretty good right now while fans of the Nashville Predators are probably feeling some heat.
With the Hawks leading the series 2-1 and tonight’s game being in Chicago, the Hawks have a golden opportunity to go up 3-1, which would be one win away from advancing to the next round. The 1st period of Game One seems like it was 100 years ago.
Tonight’s Game 4 will be played at the United Center. Puck drop is set for 8:30 PM Central Time. The game can be seen on CSN-Chicago and can be heard on WGN 720 AM.
Here’s a statistical breakdown of the series so far.
[table id=153 /]
The goals against numbers for the Hawks and the goals for numbers for the Preds are a bit inflated. 3.67 is a bit misleading due to the meltdown 3rd period in Game Two. While Nashville deserves credit for burying the Hawks in goals in that period, Game Three showed us how little of a carry-over there is from game to game in a playoff series.
So far, the Hawks have been the better team on Special Teams in this series. While the Hawks Power Play has been it’s usual inconsistent self, their Penalty Kill has given them a very slight edge.
The Faceoff percentages are very close. During the regular season, the Hawks were far superior to the Predators at taking draws. During Game 3, the Hawks won 58% of the faceoffs and not surprisingly it was also the first game that Antoine Vermette was on the ice for the Hawks.
Despite the surprisingly low overall faceoff numbers, the Hawks have been able to take a small advantage in shot attempts. As long as the Hawks continue to improve taking draws, they should continue to grow their number of shot attempts and thus increasing their chances of winning the game. It’s that simple.
The Predators may be getting a boost from the possible return of Mike Fisher, who skated with the team at the morning skate. They will still be without Shea Weber though. Weber’s absence from the top d-pairing really hurt the Preds in Game Three. Future star d-man, Seth Jones replaced Weber on the top pairing alongside Roman Josi. The pair was on the ice for 3 of the Hawks’ 4 goals.
Colin Wilson was held without a goal for the first time in the series, but still has 3 in 3 games. After not recording a point in Game One, Craig Smith has 5 points(2 goals, 3 assists) in the last 2 games.
Pekka Rinne will get the start in net for the Preds. Rinne hasn’t looked his calm, cool and collected self in this series and has a very “meh” .910 Save Percentage to show for it.
The Hawks were propelled by the top line of Jonathan Toews, Brandon Saad and Marian Hossa in Game Three. The latter two hadn’t produced much in Games 1&2 but came to play on Sunday. Toews, who is quietly having a very nice series recorded a goal and an assist. Saad scored his first goal of the series. Hossa was all over the ice and put up 2 assists.
Andrew Desjardins was the surprise of Game Three as he scored a goal, gave the 4th line a huge boost and allowed Coach Q to roll 4 lines all game long. Patrick Kane has 3 points in 3 games this series but went pointless in Game Three. Also with 3 points in 3 games, Duncan Keith is having a fantastic series. This is especially true when considering that he has been saddled with the struggling Michal Rozsival as his d-partner.
Scott Darling will once again be starting in net for the Hawks. Darling has been nothing short of fantastic as he has stopped 77 of 79 shots for an absurd .975 Save Percentage this series.
With Weber out, the game being played in front of the United Center crowd and Coach Q having the luxury of having last change of his lineups during the game, the Hawks have zero excuses. They have to win this one. If they lose, the series will be tied with Game Five to be played in Nashville with the Predators having the chance to put the Hawks on the ropes. This is as close to a must-win game outside of facing elimination that there can be. Get it done!