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Chicago Blackhawks: 5 Thoughts From Game 1 Loss To Predators

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Apr 13, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) tries to score against Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne (35) and defenseman Roman Josi (59) during the third period in game one of the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 13, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) tries to score against Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne (35) and defenseman Roman Josi (59) during the third period in game one of the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /
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A lax initial 20 minutes and some trouble cashing on on quality chances was the difference in the opener of the Chicago Blackhawks’ quarterfinal with the Predators, but there is plenty to be optimistic about

The Chicago Blackhawks dropped the opening game of their 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs run last evening at the United Center in a 1-0 shutout against the Nashville Predators. The Predators did well to curb the enthusiasm of the building in the first 20 minutes, and managed to somehow keep the ‘Hawks off the board through the final 40 — most of which was dominated by Blackhawks’ puck possession and a fair amount of well-placed shots.

Here are five takeaways from the game.

1. The Blackhawks did not give up much

The ‘Hawks surrendered just 20 shots last night — which is a very promising performance and one that will, on most nights, be more than enough to earn a victory. The broken play that led to Viktor Arvidsson‘s game-winner wasn’t much of a defensive breakdown, and the ’Hawks played an otherwise solid game in their own zone throughout.

I feel comfortable with the way the ‘Hawks defended in this one. They didn’t rush themselves out of the zone, and they did a great job managing the offensive abilities of the Preds’ defensemen. I thought Johnny Oduya looked like his old self last night.

2. Faceoffs are improving

The Blackhawks won 56 percent of the draws last night, which is dangerously close to their regular-season high. That’s crucial, as their struggling at the dot was one of their key weaknesses I feared could be exploited. Artem Anisimov‘s return made a huge difference in this facet of the game, as he finished the night at 62 percent.

Only the increasingly underperforming Marcus Kruger was below 50 percent last night. The ’Hawks need more at the dot out of No. 16 moving forward, as his line is useful in crucial defensive situations and during penalty kills.

3. The bottom pairing is being utilized a bit more than may be necessary

Brian Campbell and Trevor van Riemsdyk both finished the evening with around 15 minutes of playing time. From where I sit, that is a little north of where they should ideally be in a tight playoff game. With about a minute-and-a-half remaining in regulation time, trailing by a goal and twith he net empty, that should not be the pairing Joel Quenneville turns to.

To look at it comparatively, the Preds’ bottom two, Matt Irwin and Yannick Weber, saw just over 11 minutes of ice time in game one. That’s a healthy enough amount to rest Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and P.K Subban without “handcuffing” the team in certain situations. I don’t exactly feel that either Campbell or TVR played poorly last night, I just would rather see a few more minutes out of Niklas Hjalmarsson and Oduya.

4. The Anisimov line is a time bomb

Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin and Anisimov combined for 11 of the Blackhawks’ 29 shots last night. Generating that amount of offense is bound to translate into goals at some point, and I would be very surprised to see them kept off the scoresheet again in Game 2. They were the Blackhawks’ most dangerous line on a night where Jonathan Toews did not register a shot on goal.

5. Zone entry was ugly

The Blackhawks, in almost painful fashion, simply refused to dump the puck in last night. They miserably tried to navigate through the ridiculously crowded neutral zone, which often inhabited four or even five Nashville Predators. While it’s the ‘Hawks’ game plan to drive the middle of the ice and enter with speed, a clogged neutral zone calls for an adjustment.

When the Blackhawks did dump the puck in last night, they often did so after exhausting all other previous outlets and options, which left forwards flat-footed at the offensive blue line. That is not a recipe for puck retrieval, and made sustained pressure a problem at times.

Once the Blackhawks gain entry into the Predators’ zone, their talent and passing ability overwhelms the Nashville defense and translates into scoring chances. I’d look for the Blackhawks to make an adjustment there in Game 2, and to hit the offensive zone with speed on those dump-ins. Players like Richard Panik, Ryan Hartman and company will be crucial to retrieving dump-ins with physical play.

Next: Staff Predictions for the Series

Overall, no reason to hit the panic button. The Blackhawks outplayed the Predators for most of the game, and looked solid defensively. I have every confidence the levy will break offensively.

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