Game Three Preview: Nashville Predators-Chicago Blackhawks


The Nashville Predators are coming off a statement win on Friday night in which they scored three goals in the final frame. They’ll be looking to do more of the same without captain Shea Weber, who didn’t make the trip to Chicago.

The Predators took Game two by a 6-2 score in a game in which they never trailed. They dominated the pace of play the entire game and out-shot Chicago 35-26. Colin Wilson netted his third goal of the series to open the scoring less than three minutes into the game. Roman Josi also scored in the first to hold the lead going into the second period. Craig Smith scored twice in the game, including the game winner. Fillip Forsberg started a scoring bonanza in the third period by sweeping a puck Corey Crawford was trying to cover around the crease for his first ever playoff goal. Mike Santorelli finished it all off by making it 6-2 with 5 minutes to go in the game. It was a night of firsts for the Predators. Forsberg, Josi, Smith, and Santorelli all scored their first ever playoff goals on Friday. It had to be especially sweet for the 29 year old Santorelli, who was playing in his first ever NHL playoff game.

That game is in the rear view mirror however, and the series moves to the United Center in Chicago where the locals will be just a bit less welcoming to the team in gold (but at least they won’t be on Broadway). Puck drop is scheduled for 2 p.m., so make sure you get all of your Sunday errands done early.

Chicago Blackhawks

It was a night of firsts for the Predators, but Chicago’s goals came from players who know their way around the playoffs. A pair of Patricks, Sharp and Kane, lit the lamp for the Blackhawks on Friday. Sharp has 40 career playoff goals and Kane has 38.

Kane netted his goal in the second period, and all five of his teammates on the ice at the time were there to congratulate him on it. It was a touching moment.

Even though that goal really shouldn’t have counted, Kane isn’t showing much rust from his 7-week layoff after undergoing a clavicle surgery that was supposed to keep him out for 12 weeks. If he keeps picking up steam, watch out.

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Through the first two games, Crawford gave up nine goals on only 47 shots (.809 SV%). For whatever reason, Crawford still doesn’t seem to play well against Nashville. He didn’t get pulled on Friday like he did on Wednesday, but he may have gotten pulled from the series. Scott Darling will take over in net today after stopping all 42 shots he faced in relief in Game 1.

Darling stonewalled the Predators the last time they faced him, so they are going to have to do some research and find a way to put pucks past him this time out.

Nashville Predators

On Friday the Predators were able to shake the second period slump a bit. Though they were out-shot in the period 14-7, most of those were from bad angles and weren’t really threatening. The penalty kill also stood tall, killing off a four minute double minor when Paul Gaustad drew blood on a high stick to Mike Rozsival. The Blackhawks only got one shot on net during the extended time.

Special teams play has been important in the series so far. On Wednesday the penalty kill gave up two goals, but on Friday they gave up none while the Predators have scored once in each game on the power play. Look for the PP/PK to continue being a possible deciding factor in today’s game as well.

Watch for James Neal today. He hasn’t made the scoresheet yet, but he’s been flying around the ice. He is forcing turnovers and battling for pucks, creating chances for the Preds. He’s also thrown a series-high 14 shots on net through the first two games, so it’s not like he’s just sitting back doing nothing.

As mentioned above, Weber did not make the trip to Chicago with the team, so he will be out for at least the next two games. With Weber out, Josi will likely be relied upon to do most of the heavy lifting for the Predators’ defensive corps.

Nashville’s depth on defense will definitely be tested Friday. Either Victor Bartley or Anton Volchenkov will start tonight, and look for Seth Jones to line up beside Josi.

Pekka Rinne will, of course, start tonight. Through two games, he has stopped 62 of 68 shots for a .912 SV%.

Matinee puck drop of 2 p.m. Central. The game can be seen on NBC. Better yet, look around town and find yourself a watch party like this one in Murfreesboro.