Blackhawks vs. Predators: Goaltending key to pivotal Game 5

Rinne.jpgChicago Blackhawks vs. Nashville Predators
3:00 p.m. EDT, April 24, 2010
Live on NBC

Before the playoff series between the Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville
Predators began, you just had a feeling that this would be a drawn out
affair. The Predators used great goaltending and a patient approach to
be successful during the season, a style of hockey that counters the
high powered attack of the Blackhawks.

With the Blackhawks headed into the postseason with questions in net and
on defense, especially with the loss of Brian Campbell, there Predators
had a more than decent chance of surprising and even upsetting who some
believe to be the Stanley Cup favorites.

After four games, and a 2-2 series tie, not much has changed in that
assumption. While dominated at times in two shutout losses, they’ve been
able to frustrate the Hawks enough to secure two big wins and head into
a pivotal Game 5 with the series tied. A win today, for either team,
and the series is in their control.

The questions is whether the Blackhawks can put together that mysterious
back-to-back win, as each team has been able to respond after a tough
loss. After Thursday’s shutout loss in Chicago, the Predators are hoping
that momentum will swing back in their direction. Per Bryan Mullen of
the Tennessean:

“You’re going to get those momentum swings all through the
games,”
Nashville captain Jason Arnott said. “We’ve seen that in this series.
It’s in their favor now. They’re going home after a win. But we’re
confident that our game is pretty good when we stick to our system,
especially on the road.”

The Blachawks have needed shutouts in each of their wins to secure the
victory, taking advantage of the Predators’ lack of scoring depth. Pekka
Rinne has been magnificent for the Predators and for a team that may be
without leading scorer Patrick Hornqvist for yet another game, he will
need to be their best player yet again.

Antti Niemi and Pekka Rinne have statistically been the best goaltenders
in the playoffs, and while the Predators have certainly managed to
frustrate the Hawks it’s been the surprising play of Niemi that will be
the key to a series win for the Blackhawks.

The Predators have the ability to stick with the Hawks as long as Rinne
is lights out in net yet have had troubles scoring goals even with a
higher than expected shot total. It’s been the play of Niemi that has
been the ultimate difference maker. He’s been able to quiet the questions about the Hawks’ goaltending woes, but with Pekka Rinne playing just as good on the other end of the ice the pressure will only mount.

This is the pivotal game of the series, and more so that in any other playoff series the goaltending will be key to whoever it is moves on.

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    Gather your lucky charms, 2016 NHL Draft Lottery is tonight

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    Honestly, it’s tough to blame people for making Edmonton Oilers jokes in regards to the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery.

    Really it’s only human nature to drop one-liners about the perennial cellar-dweller that (seemingly) always lands the No. 1 pick.

    Will it happen again this time around? We’ll find out soon enough, more precisely sometime around 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

    As you can see, the Oilers do not have the best odds to land the top pick … but they’re close:

    A reminder: this time around the lottery will determine the top three picks. The NHL discusses that tweak and other changes here:

    For the first time, the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery will assign the top three slots in the first round of the NHL Draft – a change from prior years, when the Draft Lottery was used to determine the winner of the first overall selection exclusively.

    Want the full lowdown on the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery? PHT has you covered here.

    Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

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    The Stanley Cup playoffs continue with two games on Saturday. You can catch tonight’s games via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

    NY Islanders at Tampa Bay (3:00 p.m. ET)

    The TV broadcast of Game 2 will be on NBC. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

    Pittsburgh at Washington (8:00 p.m. ET)

    The TV broadcast of Game 2 will also be on NBC. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here.

    Some reading to get you pumped up:

    – The Penguins are keeping chatty Marc-Andre Fleury from speaking to the media (reportedly).

    Tom Wilson received a fine, not a suspension, for that knee-to-knee hit.

    T.J. Oshie was the difference-maker for Washington in Game 1.

    – Don’t expect Steven Stamkos to face red-hot John Tavares anytime soon (or at all, maybe).

    Read about the Isles’ Game 1 win.

    Sharks swarm in the third period, take down Predators in Game 1

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    For two periods, the San Jose Sharks couldn’t solve Pekka Rinne.

    Maybe it was because of that black cat that found its way on to the ice prior to the start of Friday’s game, or the video review that didn’t go in San Jose’s favor in the opening period.

    But that all changed in the final period. It started with Tomas Hertl on the power play finding room just under the glove of Rinne to get San Jose on the board. Joel Ward followed that up with a gorgeous deke, tucking the puck in behind Rinne just as he started to go behind the net, as San Jose was able to take advantage of a defensive breakdown.

    Logan Couture added the eventual winner. Within the span of 13 minutes, the Sharks had completely taken over, cashing in on two Nashville penalties and a defensive lapse.

    When the onslaught was over, the Sharks skated off with a 5-2 win in Game 1 of this second-round series with the Predators, who only wrapped up a seven-game series win over Anaheim on Wednesday.

    Ryan Johansen made it interesting, cutting into San Jose’s lead with under two minutes remaining, but any further comeback attempt was quickly halted by a pair of empty net goals from the Sharks.

    The game ended with a dust-up along the boards, before cooler heads did prevail.

    Another North Dakota junior goes pro as Blackhawks sign Luke Johnson

    Quinnipiac forward Tommy Schutt, left, moves the puck as North Dakota forward Luke Johnson, middle, checks Quinnipiac forward Travis St. Denis during the first period of an NCAA college hockey tournament game Friday, March 27, 2015, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota won 4-1. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy)
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    Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.

    This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

    In 43 games with the NCAA champs this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, just shy of his college career high of 24 points set the previous year.

    Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, making him the fourth member of that program’s junior class to turn pro since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.

    Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.

    Brock Boeser, Vancouver’s 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.