The Chicago Blackhawks have a 2-1 series lead despite changing goalies and being out scored 11-10 over the first three games.
Entering tonight’s game three, the Blackhawks have a chance to put a stranglehold on this series before it heads back to Nashville for game five. While it can’t be considered a must-win, the Blackhawks would absolutely love to win this game and put the Nashville Predators in a world of hurt.
The Blackhawks have battled through some rough play from both their goalie and the team playing in front of him, but have somehow managed to win two games. In their most recent contest, the Blackhawks played their best team effort in front of Scott Darling. All goalie controversy aside, the Blackhawks played a complete game. They played well in their own zone and had clean breakouts. The breakouts have been the problem for the Blackhawks, as turnovers and forwards escaping the zone too early has led to some bad goals given up.
In game three, the Blackhawks denied zone entries with active sticks, didn’t try to go for the home run pass every time, and carried into the Nashville zone which led to quality scoring chances. All of those things were the reasons they were able to rebound from a 6-2 loss in game two.
Add to that Nashville played game three (and will play game four) without their best defensemen Shea Weber. Without him back in the Nashville zone quarterbacking the power-play, penalty kill and using his physical play, the Predators are scrambling to find a pairing to matchup with the Saad-Toews-Hossa line. Not having an answer for that line caused problems in game three, and it will cause problems in game four.
In game four, the Blackhawks have a unique opportunity to build on their good play in game three, take a commanding lead and protect home ice. The Blackhawks don’t necessarily have to win, but building on their good play and gaining some confidence is important. They can put themselves in a great situation for when the series returns to Nashville, and shift all the pressure onto the Predators. Shifting the pressure can create a more relaxed team that can make the play on the ice better. Game four isn’t a must-win because a loss still has the Blackhawks in a good situation, but a win would be much, much better for the Blackhawks and their fans.
Momentum is huge in the playoffs and can take another team out of a series. That is what the Blackhawks have a chance to do tonight, they have a chance to create some momentum and put some doubt in the minds of the Predators.
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