Chicago Blackhawks’ 3 Keys To Game 4 Victory Against Predators
By Jeffrey Franklin
These Stanley Cup Playoffs have not gone as planned for the Chicago Blackhawks. Not many would’ve predicted that the ‘Hawks would be on the verge of getting swept for the first time in the Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews era, but alas that is the unfortunate predicament the Blackhawks find themselves in.
Winning Game 4 of this first-round series against Nashville is no longer optional if the Chicago Blackhawks want to mount a monumental comeback against a team that has consistently outplayed them. This is what the Blackhawks have to do if they’re to beat the Predators for the first time in this series.
1. Win more faceoffs
The Chicago Blackhawks have been less than spectacular at the dot, and when a possession-style team like the Blackhawks has trouble enough getting the puck through the neutral zone, it has to win draws to set up plays in the offensive zone.
They’re not doing that, and because of that the Nashville Predators have been controlling play, the shot clock and thus the scoreboard.
The Blackhawks finished Monday’s contest with a team faceoff percentage of just 46, and Artem Anisimov, the team’s second-line center, had an atrocious win percentage of just 12. Those numbers are unacceptable, and if the Blackhawks want to continue playing hockey they must figure that out and fast.
In this era, the Blackhawks were never necessarily dominant at the dot, but it wasn’t this glaring of an issue either. Jonathan Toews would win better than 50 percent of his draws and the rest of the team managed to win at least 40 percent. It has been rare to see these paltry faceoff numbers that have been a regular part of this year’s edition of the ‘Hawks.
2. Get in Pekka Rinne’s head
Before this series started, I wrote that Pekka Rinne, while a really good goalie, was starting to slow down. To this point I could not have been more wrong.
He has limited the Blackhawks to just two goals in three games against an offense that saw regular-season scoring from the whole lineup.
It looked like maybe the Blackhawks had finally solved Rinne in the second period of Game 3, by scoring two goals in a short span. If you got excited that the ‘Hawks had rattled Rinne, your excitement was short-lived as he shut down the ‘Hawks for the rest of the night, including a paltry overtime period.
The Blackhawks have had trouble keeping the puck in Rinne’s zone, and because of that Rinne has been able to recover and focus on almost every shot. The ‘Hawks need to get in the Preds’ zone set up and get a lot of high-quality shots on net.
Even if they don’t score on every opportunity, they need to find a way to fluster Rinne, make him uneasy and get him moving side to side. It’s not surprising the Predators have put the ‘Hawks in the position they’re in, as they’ve been able to apply constant pressure in the ‘Hawks zone.
3. Play with passion
I’m not willing to believe the popular idea that this is how good the Blackhawks actually are and their 50 wins was more of a fluke than anything. There were stretches of complete and utter dominance by the Blackhawks this season that make their play right now baffling.
It’d be one thing to lose this playoff series; there’s no shame in losing unless you lose without passion. Right now, I think it’s fair to question the team’s overall drive.
Outside of Patrick Kane’s questioning of his own play, there has been very little accountability other than the cliché quotes you’ll get from any playoff team in a tough spot. Jonathan Toews’ resurgence in February and March has all but disappeared, and the man wearing the C does not look like he’s doing much to change it. They all say they have to play angry, but when they hit the ice they have looked passive and uninterested.
Next: Chicago Blackhawks On Other Side Of Puck Luck Against Predators
If the ‘Hawks want to not only make this series respectable but also give themselves a chance to win, they need their top guys to step up. Kane started this with his goal in Monday’s game, but the rest of the core group of guys has been completely silenced. The ‘Hawks are known for turning it on with their backs to the wall. Now’s the time to prove it, and it starts at the top.