Apr 19, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa (81) leaps over Nashville Predators defenseman Seth Jones (3) during the first 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
Tonight the Chicago Blackhawks will take on the Nashville Predators in Game 4 of their Round 1 matchup. The Chicago Blackhawks have taken a 2-1 lead in the series and will look to push the Predators closer to the edge of elimination. The Nashville Predators will be playing without Captain Shea Weber (lower-body) once again and the availability of Mike Fisher (lower-body) still is in question after he practiced today with the team. These are definitely things the Chicago Blackhawks should keep in the back of their minds but shouldn’t focus on too much. They just need to go out there playing their style of hockey and things should fall in place. Before the puck drops I would like to take the time to look at the Chicago Blackhawks keys to Game 4 against the Predators.
What a Darling in net
As you probably know by now, Scott Darling will make his 2nd playoff start and 3rd appearance for the Blackhawks in net tonight. So far in 2 games he has faced 79 shots against him while saving 77 of them. Most importantly he has earned the W in both of the games his teammates and coaches confidence are riding high on him. Corey Crawford has been a class act himself, acknowledging his shakiness and determining to make the corrections in practice. He is patiently waiting for Coach Q to call on him again but in the meantime he has acted as a mentor to Scott Darling and has been helping him during this time of great pressure. Usually when things like this happen it can cause a rift within the locker room and add extra distractions. Not in this case though it has made the Blackhawks stronger. A strong emergence of Scott Darling has been the key to Blackhawks success and it will be the same in Game 4.
Marian “Bossa” Hossa
During Game 3 Marian Hossa looked like he was possessed at times out on the ice. Even though he did not have a goal (nearly had a couple) his presence had a huge impact on both sides of the ice. In 15 1/2 minutes of ice time Hossa had two primary assists, two takeaways, two hits, and record a team-high six shots! That’s only the stats that go on the paper. His controlling of the puck, his leaping on the ice (pictured above), and his defensive touch were all present in one of the best games I have seen him play in a long time. Don’t get me wrong he is out there hustling every night on both sides of the puck, this was “playoff hockey.” If Hossa brings his A game like he did the other night there is no way he doesn’t get on the stat sheet again, hopefully on the goal scoring side this time. Keep your eye on him tonight it looks like Viktor Stalberg has him all fired up!
The defense has occasionally looked weak at times and has been in the wrong place (screening their own goalies) at the wrong time. I also noticed a few times they have been too slow to get back and make a play creating extra pressure on their goalies. Several of the goals that Corey Crawford has let slide by have been related to this along with a goal Scott Darling gave up on Sunday. They did look better in the game played on Sunday but they still need to clean things up when trying to clear the zone. The one thing that proved to be positive was how the special teams stepped up early in Game 3 after Kimmo Timonen committed a knucklehead penalty minutes into the game. This could have been disastrous letting the Predators get on the board early and taking the crowd out of it but they stood tall and got the crowd even more fired up. Keep an eye on the defense along with the penalty kill as they look to continue the improvement they showed in Game 3
What are your keys to Game 4 against the Predators? Feel free to leave them in the comments below! GO HAWKSSS!!!
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