The Nashville Predators won’t be celebrating too loudly following their 6-2 win over Chicago.
Nashville lit the lamp six times on Corey Crawford but lost captain Shea Weber to injury in a costly but convincing Game 2 win against the Blackhawks.
Weber went down with an apparent ankle injury in the second period after taking a hit from Brandon Saad, whose skate appeared to clip Weber’s ankle. Weber left the game immediately and did not return.
With a power play assist in the first period against Slovakia, Team USA’s Auston Matthews put himself in the history books. The elite center and top prospect for the 2016 NHL draft had himself his 103rd point of the season, breaking the National Team Development Program record of 102, set by Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane in 2005-06.
In a year where Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel have ruled the prospect world, it’s time to give Matthews his due.
A fleeting moment in goaltender Scott Darling’s scene-stealing Wednesday performance summed up his season: a playful wink at an official.
Darling was right in the middle of setting an NHL record for the most minutes played in relief (67:44) without allowing a goal. He had just stopped one of the 42 shots he’d face on a night in which his Chicago Blackhawks rallied from a 3-0 deficit to gut out an overtime road win in Nashville. He’d quite possibly spurred a goaltending controversy with Corey Crawford. Yet Darling wasn’t above a fun little wink. He doesn’t remember when it happened, as he said he had a few different interactions with the refs in Game 1. He skated by and apologized for yelling at them. They bought him some time when he cramped up in OT. And there was the wink, which represented someone stopping to enjoy the latest destination on his unlikely road.
Maybe that sense of perspective and appreciation is precisely what made Darling a cool customer – and a winner – in Game 1.
If the Nashville Predators are going to even up their series against the Chicago Blackhawks, they’re going to have to need short memories because otherwise this loss could stick with them for a while.
After Nashville took a 3-0 lead in the first period on two goals by Colin Wilson and one by Viktor Stalberg, Chicago dominated for long stretches of the second period, vanquished their three-goal deficit and headed into the third period with the score tied. And while Duncan Keith’s game-winning goal will go down as the shot that ultimately won the game in double overtime, it was the play of rookie goaltender Scott Darling that was truly the story. Read more
Heading into the post-season, the Chicago Blackhawks were struggling, but goaltender Corey Crawford was playing some of the best hockey of his career. Crawford is going to want to forget the first period of the opening game between his Blackhawks and the Nashville Predators, however.
With Nashville taking the play to Chicago early in the first and jumping out to a 1-0 lead thanks to a Colin Wilson goal, the Predators added to their lead thanks to a massive misplay by Crawford. As the puck came around the boards into the Blackhawks’ zone, Crawford went out to play the puck but, due to the trapezoid that limits goaltenders ability to get involved in the play, he had to wait for the puck to arrive.
When the puck met Crawford, he had it poked from his stick by Nashville winger Calle Jarnkrok. Predators’ winger Viktor Stalberg was waiting on the other side of the net, scooped up the puck and tucked it into the wide-open net. Check it out below: Read more
HOW THEY WIN
PREDATORS: Replacing coach Barry Trotz with Peter Laviolette transformed Nashville from a counterstriker into an attacking team. The result was the Preds’ best goal production in four years. They lack a superstar up front, but rookie Filip Forsberg has flashed that kind of ability. The rest of Nashville’s forwards provide offense by committee. A more aggressive approach has made Nashville a better possession team and thus better defensively, as opponents can’t score without the puck. The Preds are relatively faceless up front, but it’s the opposite from the net out. Goalie Pekka Rinne bounced back from his 2013-14 hip problems with a stellar year. Nashville’s greatest strength: its blueline, led by superstar Shea Weber, who does everything well. Partner Roman Josi remains a secret stud. Seth Jones, Ryan Ellis, Cody Franson and Mattias Ekholm round out a versatile top six that oozes puck-moving ability.
BLACKHAWKS: The uber-experienced Blackhawks are loaded with multi-championship players, from Jonathan Toews to Marian Hossa, and the majority of their 2013 Stanley Cup roster is intact. They don’t panic under pressure, as they showed last year rallying from a 2-0 series deficit in the first round to knock out St. Louis. Chicago keeps teams off the scoresheet so well because its deep D-corps, led by Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, pushes play toward the other team’s net. The Hawks crack the NHL’s top three in Corsi Close a third straight season. Goaltender Corey Crawford only has to be good and not great. The Hawks score a lot at even strength because of their tremendous depth. One of Antoine Vermette and Brad Richards is the third-line center for the playoffs. Coach Joel Quenneville can deploy championship-caliber checkers Andrew Shaw and Marcus Kruger as low as the fourth line. Read more
The start of the NHL playoffs means it’s time for subterfuge and/or the vaguest of terms to describe players’ injuries – and the playing status of any roster member, for that matter – so take anything you see below with a salt grain or two. But a number of NHLers were rumored Tuesday to be questionable for the start of their team’s first-round series – and not just because of injury. Read more
It’s official. Patrick Kane will be back in the Blackhawks’ lineup Wednesday night for the first game of Chicago’s first-round tilt with the Nashville Predators.
Kane, who has been out since February with a broken clavicle, is coming back seven weeks after the injury was suffered. Initially, when he went down, the thought was Kane wouldn’t see action until the Western Conference final, were the Blackhawks to make it. The news that he’ll play in the first game of Chicago’s playoff run comes as somewhat of a shock and it begs the question: how effective will Kane really be? Read more