The Blackhawks got to ease themselves in this year, letting other teams do the heavy lifting last night, with multiple games going to overtime. Wasn’t it nice, to start the playoff season watching other fans do the patented Barf Cry Die move? I certainly appreciated watching overtime in the Sharks/Oilers game without having any emotional attachment to the winner of the game.
The Blackhawks opening game against the Predators featured one goal, a suddenly hot goalie, a non-called penalty, and a lackluster first period that doomed the team. It was the polar opposite of the last series against Nashville, which featured more goals than you could shake a stick at, and the re-emergence of the Goalie Controversy Narrative.
If there was anything I hoped for in this series, it was that we wouldn’t get a replay of that series. And, oh, boy, we sure got something totally different.
In the first period, the Blackhawks looked utterly unprepared for the fact that the post-season had started. Poor defending and being out of position led to the first goal. Why three Jonathan Toews, Richard Panik, and Nick Schmaltz all converged on Ryan Johansen, we’ll never know, but the blown coverage led to an easy goal for the Predators.
We don’t think this is how defense is supposed to work, Chicago? pic.twitter.com/0RLSzsGpeJ
— SB Nation NHL (@SBNationNHL) April 14, 2017
The Blackhawks recovered nicely from the first period, allowing only nine total shots for the Predators in the remainder of the game. However, Pekka Rinne played like Vintage Pekka Rinne, stopping all 29 shots that he faced, including several good chances from Marian Hossa (4 shots) and Patrick Kane (7 shots).
Joel Quenneville immediately started tinkering with his lineup after the first period, temporarily benching Nick Schmaltz and putting Tanner Kero on the first line. Kero also saw time between Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane, where he enjoyed some success at the end of the regular season as a fill-in for Artem Anisimov. (Anisimov, in his return after injury, looked good but was having some timing issues with his play; the rhythm and tempo of his linemates should hopefully come back to him soon.)
Jordin Tootoo and John Hayden got the team low in ice time, each playing just over five minutes. While in an ideal situation, all four lines would get a more even rotation, this doesn’t seem like too much of a concern — Tootoo is good for grit and energy, and in truth has played well against his former team; and Hayden, while he has the makings of a solid power forward, is still very, very new to the NHL. Sheltering both of them and limiting their minutes isn’t much to worry about.
A game one loss isn’t much to get concerned about — they’ve only won three opening round games one since 2009 — particularly given the way the Blackhawks rebounded from a shaky first period. The Predators in this game played a more conservative defensive style than they did in the regular season, which was bad for Chicago tonight, but maybe not so bad in the future — it was much closer to the way the Predators have looked in years past, and Joel Quenneville’s usually figured out how to get past that.
It’s cliche, but most games, if the Blackhawks play like that, they’ll come away with the win. They’ve got another shot at the United Center on Saturday.
At least this game didn’t need extra periods to get done. Thanks for small favors, I guess.
(Photo: Sarah Avampato)