Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Pay attention. Everyone. At all times. The Preds have talent. We can say that off the bat. But the ’Hawks have gifted them several tallies by acting without 100 percent focus in all situations. Without going through all 82 regular-season games, it’s hard to imagine the Preds have experienced anything like their three-goal spurts in Games 2 and 5 within a single week’s worth of action. The ’Hawks were left wondering about a previous goal as another one passed Corey Crawford/Scott Darling. This isn’t limited to losing efforts, either. In Game 3, the ’Hawks gave up a pair of leads faster than David Backes loses his cool when his team falls behind.
If the ’Hawks repeat any of this in Game 6, you can bet the Preds will make them pay dearly. They’re playing for their season from here on out. Therefore, mistakes just cannot be made. The ’Hawks need to be sure about their passes, clearing attempts and on-ice positioning throughout the evening. Tossing the puck around blindly or losing a Predator as he flies toward Darling could put the ’Hawks on the wrong end of a game they need to win.
Da Windy City
Stay close to the Preds, then collapse on the net. The ’Hawks aren’t a physical bunch, overall. There’s no denying it. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t play tight to the Preds in an effort to wear down and frustrate Peter Laviolette’s bunch. The Preds have been given far too much space throughout the series, allowing them to get off clean shots from prime scoring areas. At least one example can be found in every game. Take a look at Colin Wilson’s powerplay strike in Game 5. A lot of staring going on there. If you want an even-strength example, recall Michal Rozsival’s temporary controller disconnect in Game 1.
It’s understandable the ’Hawks don’t want to overcommit to a man who can then dish the puck to a teammate for a different quality chance. But if a Pred carrying the puck is pressured and harassed, it’s less likely that puck is going to end up in a prime scoring area.