Blackhawks hope to start comeback vs. Predators (Apr 17, 2017)
Here are two things favoring the Blackhawks as they try to dig out of a 2-0 deficit in their best-of-seven Western Conference first-round playoff matchup with the Predators: Chicago’s winning pedigree and the fact that Nashville blew a similar advantage last year against the Anaheim Ducks before winning in seven games.
Here is what is working against Chicago as it prepares for Game 3 on Monday night in what will be a raucous Bridgestone Arena: Everything else.
The Blackhawks haven’t scored a goal yet in the series, so Predators goalie Pekka Rinne has two more points — thanks to secondary assists in a 5-0 romp on Saturday at the United Center — than any Chicago player. Nashville seemed to own space in Chicago’s collective psyche toward the end of Game 2.
Winners of three Stanley Cups in the past seven seasons, the Blackhawks displayed their frustration late Saturday night. Skilled players such as Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane were looking to crack heads instead of score goals, and Ryan Hartman went off in the last minutes for an ugly butt-ending of Craig Smith’s head.
While Hartman escaped a suspension, Chicago can’t hide from the reality of its predicament. Teams which own 2-0 leads in NHL playoff series go on to win more than 87 percent of the time. What’s more, the Blackhawks have won just two times on the road in their past four playoff series.
“The confidence is definitely there,” Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford said. “No one is doubting this team right now. We just have to play our game and not worry about anything. Just worry about that first shift and go from there.”
In short, do what the Predators have done so far. Nashville scored before the first TV timeout in both games in Chicago, enabling the Predators to roll four lines and three defense pairings while making the Blackhawks chase the game.
What’s more, the Predators have played with the kind of defensive structure and discipline they lacked at times during a 41-29-12 regular season. They took just two minor penalties in each game while clogging shooting and passing lanes, and when Chicago did create good chances, Rinne was there at every turn.
Rinne stole Game 1, but Nashville mostly dominated Game 2. Ryan Johansen scored a goal and drew two assists, defenseman Ryan Ellis starred again with a marker and 11 total shots, and all four lines potted goals.
“A lot of guys played great hockey tonight,” Ellis said. “We got the result we wanted, but we have a lot of work yet to do. We need to keep on the gas because this team is not gonna go away. They have proven time in and time out that they’re a championship team for a reason.”
The Blackhawks talked before Game 2 about making adjustments, such as crowding Rinne and playing with more of an edge. None of that happened, except for the edge after the game was decided.
Whatever changes they make for Monday night won’t involve the net. Crawford will draw the start instead of capable backup Scott Darling, who replaced a shaky Crawford in 2015 and won three games as Chicago eliminated Nashville in six games to start its third Stanley Cup run.