Yell at Gatekeeper
The official chase for the Stanley Cup started Thursday night at the United Center as the paranoid Nashville Predators took the trek north to face the Western Conference Champs. Despite all the tangible statistics indicating that the Blackhawks have owned the Preds all year, a disturbing number of alleged big brain people claimed that the Blackhawks weren't going to make it past seven games in these playoffs. I'll let the series speak for itself before I really let loose, but I cannot imagine how this is even remotely possible. For christ sakes, the Los Angeles Kings, who just missed the playoffs and fired both their coach and GM, led the league in 5vs5 Corsi. You know who else beat both the Blackhawks and Preds? Carolina. Another non playoff team. Montreal was third in the league and lost 2-0 to the Rangers just the other night. Corsi can indicate some useful metrics, but just vomiting out Corsi numbers to predict playoff series outcomes is an asinine practice. The Blackhawks led the Predators in both goals per 60 minutes and goals against per 60 minutes.
Allow me to redirect, though.
The Blackhawks came into this series "completely" healthy, which is to say that all expected starters would be available. They were, no doubt, nursing injuries and the top of that list was center Artem Anisimov. Thursday night's game was his first game back after taking a scary spill a month ago and missing a bunch of games. There is no way he went from "barely skating" to "completely healed" in a matter of seven days. We'll see just how effective he is after being on the shelf for a couple of weeks.
The first period did NOT have a playoff feel to it whatsoever. The Blackhawks opened up a 5-2 shot lead, but a lazy defensive play gave the Preds an early lead. The rest of the period was basically all Predators after that. The shot total leaned pretty considerably in favor of Nashville when the horn sounded, 11-6. I can't say I was worried by either the score or the shot totals.
Even though the Blackhawks were awarded a powerplay just seconds into the second period, they couldn't tie the game. Their pressure didn't stop there, though. Before the Preds knew what hit them the Blackhawks were holding a 10-2 shot lead just halfway through the period. The Predators were in some serious trouble, for a good majority of the middle frame, and desperately hung on to their one goal lead. When the second horn rang out, the Blackhawks had a 12-4 period shot lead and an 18-15 lead on the night. Again, though, it did not have the aura of a playoff game.
Not much changed in the third period, as the Blackhawks spent a majority of their time in the Preds end of the ice, peppering Pekka Rinne with shots to the tune of 7-2 in the top half of the period. The Blackhawks even got a late powerplay that they failed to even get a shot on net during. When all was said and done, the Blackhawks were shutout 1-0, even though they out shot the Preds 29-20.
This is hardly concerning. There is no way that Rinne or the Preds can continue this pace. The Dam will break and it'll flood.
- Corey Crawford wasn't spectacular, but he did give his team plenty of opportunity to win this game. When you lose 1-0, it's never the goalie's fault.
- That said, broken ol shithip Pekka Rinne played great. The Preds had no business winning this game, yet here we are. Twenty nine saves and the whitewash.
- Some of the Blackhawks big money players logged some insane ice time. Patrick Kane played 24:23, Artemi Panarin played 21:31, and Jonathan Toews played 20:38.
- As much as it pains me, I have to give Trevor van Riemsdyk some credit. He firing the puck like Shea Weber and the shots were getting through to the net. I wish I could say as much for the other 5 defensemen, because they were pounding the hell out of opposing shin pads..
- God damn, I said it last season, but Viktor Arvidsson is a hell of a nice player. Not only did he have the Preds goal, but he had a third period breakaway where he hit the crossbar.
- Just under eight minutes into the game, three Hawks defenders got caught at their own blue line chasing the puck while Viktor Arvidsson snuck in behind Duncan Keith and tipped a long Filip Forsberg shot past Corey Crawford. This was only the Preds' third shot of the game.
- Joel Quenneville didn't wait long for the line blender to fire up. He flip-flopped Tanner Kero and Nick Schmaltz about five minutes into the seconds period. Talk about going from the outhouse to the penthouse, and vice versa.
- Just a few minutes after the Preds took the league, Ryan Hartman did his best Andrew Shaw impression, taking a weak offensive zone penalty. The Hawks eventually killed the powerplay but as soon as Hartman got out of the box he egregiously turned the puck over deep in the Hawks zone, and nearly cost them another goal. Not a great first playoff period for the kid.
- My biggest criticism of Duncan Keith is his inability to create clean shooting lanes, and it was blatantly evident in the beginning of this game. So evident that Trevor van Riemsdyk was able to make clear adjustment and made everyone watching wonder, once again, why Keith cannot figure this out.
- While the powerplay got some pressure in the first period, the Blackhawks were 0-2, and that's the game, Folks.
- With under a minute remaining in regulation and his goalie on the bench Duncan Keith decided it was better to gently hand the puck over to the Preds instead of try and shoot. This defies any logic, but then again, so did Calle Jarnkrok when he decided to they and force a bad pass instead of just hitting the open net.
- It looks like Mark Lazarus fired up that stupid #PearlJamCounter again. I swear to imaginary zombie Christ that I will shame him into silence, or until he blocks me, if this continues for 2 more months.
- I'd love for the Corsi clowns to explain this one to me. The Blackhawks almost doubled up the Preds in 5-on-5 Corsi, 57-33, and 66-36 overall. Oh right, when your numbers don't fit, just shout "SCORE EFFECTS!". Bullshit.
- The only player on the Blackhawks that had negative Corsi numbers were the makeshift 4th line of John Hayden, Nick Schmaltz, and Jordin Tootoo.
- Duncan Keith, Nik Hjalmarsson, Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane were all in double digits as far as Corsi goes.
Left Wing - Center - Right Wing
Schmaltz - Toews - Panik
Panarin - Anisimov - Kane
Hartman - Kruger - Hossa
Hayden - Kero - Tootoo
Keith - Hjalmarsson
Oduya - Seabrook
van Riemsdyk - Campbell