The Runner Sports

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Nashville Predators: Game One Recap

No one who knows either the Chicago Blackhawks or the Nashville Predators expected this to be anything but a tough, hard-nosed series. If Game 1 was any indication, that’s exactly what we’re going to get.

The ticker you see on your local news or national sports network will show that a single goal separated this game, one that the Nashville Predators won on the road, in Chicago’s United Center. However, it was more than just the goal that gave Nashville the win.

The Impeccable Pekka Rinne

It’s no question that the 82-game season was one of ups and downs for starting goaltender Pekka Rinne. He had his moments of brilliance for the Predators, but also moments where you had to wonder if he was the guy to take this team through the playoffs.

Thursday night, he showed many moments of brilliance and gave the Chicago Blackhawks fans something to be worried about as the series goes on.

Rinne faced 29 shots and saved every single one. He flashed his glove, he scrambled, he fought through screens, and he even got a little lucky at times. The fact of the matter is that no Blackhawk player could penetrate the brick wall that was Pekka Rinne.

It wasn’t all his pure skill, though, as Nashville’s defense kept high-danger shots in this game to a minimum. For example, Chicago’s six shots on goal in the first period came from distances of 56, 43, 66, 24, 33, and 81 feet — this, according to Scott Powers of TheAthletic.com. Not exactly the most menacing of chances for a team with seven forwards that put up 20-plus goals this season.

Nashville’s Neutral Zone

The Nashville Predators controlled the neutral zone for the majority of this game, limiting the Chicago Blackhawks from carrying the puck into the offensive zone and instead forcing the squad to rely on a dump-and-chase strategy.

Especially in the first period and a half, this couldn’t have been less effective for the Hawks. Home run passes were attempted and subsequently intercepted. Clearances failed, leading to turnovers. A usually on-the-ball top line of Schmaltz-Toews-Panik was stifled, leading to coach Joel Quenneville switching things up and dropping Nick Schmaltz to the fourth line at one point.

Simply put, Nashville kept Chicago from building offense from its own zone, putting more pressure on individual forwards, leading to turnovers and better chances for the Predators.

One Shot, One Goal

The aforementioned neutral zone pressure led to Nashville’s one and only goal, the difference maker in this first game.

A defensive lapse on Chicago’s part saw three defenders close in on Filip Forsberg, who sent a puck toward the net that was deflected past the pad of Corey Crawford by Viktor Arvidsson. It was a wonderful play set up by one of the only poor defensive moments of the game for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Unfortunately, that was the difference maker and, in playoff hockey, sometimes it only takes one.

Encouraging notes for the Chicago Blackhawks came in the second and third period. The Blackhawks had 23 shots in the final two periods, many of which were chances that could have easily gone in, including an Artem Anisimov chance in the second period that Rinne had to sprawl out for and pad away.

Anisimov was a step off all game, likely due to missing the final 13 games of the regular season because of an injury, but his play was encouraging and he’ll certainly be a factor in this series going forward.

Game two’s puck drops on Saturday at the United Center and the Chicago Blackhawks will look to even up the series before it heads to Nashville next week.

Tyler Berry

Tyler Berry

Tyler is a digital marketing coordinator moonlighting as a sports writer. He is an avid Indianapolis Colts, Indiana Pacers and Chicago White Sox fan, and has followed the Blackhawks even before Kane and Toews were drafted.
Tyler Berry