Blackhawks News

Chicago Blackhawks Have Chance to Advance Past Nashville Predators

By Brian Kinkade
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Apr 17, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne (35) makes a save during the first period against the Chicago Blackhawks in game two of the first round of the the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a chance they sure as heck better take advantage of too.  After Game One’s double overtime affair and Game Four’s triple overtime version, both the Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators have played a ridiculous amount of hockey in only four games.  Both teams could really use a rest.

If the Hawks win, they will be able to recharge and rest for the 2nd round of the playoffs.  That would be nice.

Nashville can’t afford to rest.  To them, a rest means they are officially in their offseason.  The Preds need this series to go 7 games and they need to win out in order to advance.  A mighty task indeed.

During the Coach Q era(aka the Hawks’ modern renaissance), the Hawks are 12-3 in elimination playoff games.  Things are looking up for the Hawks, but this has been a series of inches and tonight’s Game Five could go either way.

Puck drop for tonight’s game is set for 8:30 PM Central Time(yes, another one of those late starts) and is being played in Nashville.  The game can be seen on CSN-Chicago+ as well as NBCSN.  It can be heard on WGN 720 AM.

Here’s how the Hawks and Predators have fared statistically throughout the series.

[table id=154 /]

Five-on-five, both the Hawks and Preds are giving as much as they are taking.  However, Nashville’s goals for and the Hawks’ goals against is a bit inflated thanks to Game Two’s 3rd period meltdown from the Hawks.

The Special Teams numbers definitely favor the Preds as their Penalty Kill has made the Hawks’ Power Play look like garbage and their Power Play has looked very solid against the Hawks’ potent Penalty Kill.

Nashville has won more faceoffs, but that hasn’t been the case for the last two games.  Thank you, Antoine Vermette.  No, the Hawks’ recent successes in the dot haven’t been all thanks to Vermette, but him playing center instead of Andrew Shaw has made a big difference.

The SAT Percentage might be the story of why the Hawk’s have a 3-1 lead in the series.  The other numbers are mostly even or favor the Preds, but the Hawks have a significant advantage generating shot attempts and possessing the puck.  This has been aided largely by the improvements in the faceoff circle as well as Coach Q’s ability to have last change during the last two games.  Q won’t have that luxury tonight as the series goes back to Nashville for tonight, so the Hawks will have to figure out a way to hog the puck without favorable matchups.

This has been aided largely by the improvements in the faceoff circle as well as Coach Q’s ability to have last change during the last two games.  Q won’t have that luxury tonight as the series goes back to Nashville for tonight, so the Hawks will have to figure out a way to hog the puck without favorable matchups.

Also, Shea Weber being out has also helped the Hawks.

However, without Weber, Seth Jones has stepped up and played extremely well for the Preds alongside Roman Josi.  Both Weber and Mike Fisher remain day-to-day.  If either or both are able to return tonight, it would be a huge boost for the Preds.  Colin Wilson was at it again in Game Four.  With his goal in that contest, Wilson now has 4 goals in the series.  Craig Smith leads Nashville in points this series with 5(2 goals, 3 assists).  However, all of these points came in Games Two and Three.

Starting in net for the Preds will once again be Pekka Rinne.  Rinne looked shaky in the first three games of the series but was fantastic in Game Four.  Overall, he has a “meh” .911 Save Percentage but he could be trouble if he’s just now hitting his stride.

The aforementioned Antoine Vermette scored his first goal as a Hawk.  As long as Vermette is winning faceoffs and playing good defense, he is well worth the roster spot.  If he’s adding offense too(which he is more than capable of doing) then that’s just fantastic.  Bryan Bickell joined the line that’s centered by Brad Richards with Patrick Kane as the other winger.  It’s this line that got the puck to Brent Seabrook to score the game-winner in Game Four.  During the last two games, the top line of Jonathan Toews, Brandon Saadand Marian Hossa has wrecked havoc on the Predators.

Starting in net for the Hawks will be the big story, Scott Darling once again.  Darling has simply been absurd this series outside of some bad rebounds.  Regardless, Darling has a scary good .969 Save Percentage this series.  He has stopped 127 of the 131 shots he has faced this series.

In all likelihood, the Hawks will advance to the 2nd round of the playoffs.  But they can’t be thinking that and neither should you.  If they can keep that “one game at a time” mindset, it will be in their best long-term interests.  A big win tonight means they advance and also a huge opportunity to rest up after playing an insane amount of hockey in a short amount of time.

Go Hawks!

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