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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    The Buzzer: Eichel beats McDavid; More Vegas gold

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    Player of the Night: Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres

    So far in their careers, Connor McDavid comparisons haven’t been kind to Jack Eichel. To be fair, just about every other NHL player pales in comparison to McDavid, but Eichel gets it the worst because he was selected right behind McDavid in the 2015 NHL Draft.

    McDavid’s enjoyed a deep playoff run and piled up some impressive hardware, yet Eichel got the best of number 97 for at least one night. As part of a 5-0 win for the Sabres against the Oilers, Eichel generated a goal and three assists.

    If you haven’t noticed, Eichel’s been playing some of the best hockey even before Tuesday. With 10 points in his last five games, he’s enjoying the most productive stretch of his young career.

    It was outrageous to place Buffalo’s blame on Eichel, so hopefully this torrid run at least turns down the volume on his critics.

    Highlights of the Night:

    We saw the nasty side of Brad Marchand with this questionable hit, but this goal was very, very nice:

    This Shea Theodore outlet pass is so slick, it’s almost tough to keep your eye on it. William Karlsson scored yet again, and the Golden Knights won once again.

    You may also enjoy Travis Konecny’s overtime game-winner, which you can check out here.

    Factoids

    The Boston Bruins’ run continues, while the Avalanche’s winning streak ended.

    Vegas Golden Knights zero in on more records for expansion teams. Remarkable stuff.

    From remarkably great to almost unspeakably bad: how can the Oilers’ penalty kill be this ineffective?

    Some key bits from tonight

    Panthers, Stars brawl.

    Canadiens end Avalanche’s winning streak at 10.

    Flyers edge Red Wings in OT.

    Possible injury for Joe Thornton?

    Goalie injuries also cause for concern.

    Scores

    Bruins 3, Devils 2
    Penguins 3, Hurricanes 1
    Canadiens 4, Avalanche 2
    Flyers 3, Red Wings 2 (OT)
    Blues 3, Senators 0
    Lightning 4, Predators 3 (OT)
    Stars 6, Panthers 1
    Sabres 5, Oilers 0
    Canucks 6, Kings 2
    Golden Knights 6, Blue Jackets 3
    Ducks 6, Rangers 3
    Jets 5, Sharks 4 (OT)

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    Fights: Stars, Panthers pile up season-high 138 penalty minutes

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    When you think of the Dallas Stars against the Florida Panthers, a few things might come to mind:

    • No state income taxes, if you’re an unrestricted free agent.
    • “Non-traditional franchises.”
    • Going further on that point, arguably examples of Gary Bettman’s vision in expanding the league’s scope.

    You probably don’t think “blood rivals,” but maybe Tuesday will change that. Perhaps it was triggered in part by a misunderstanding about James Reimer‘s injury, or maybe because Antoine Roussel is Antoine Roussel, yet either way, things got pretty nasty between the Stars and Panthers on Tuesday.

    The two teams piled up a whopping 138 penalty minutes in this one, which is great for lovers of chaos and/or fantasy hockey owners.

    According to Sportsnet’s stats, that’s the highest combined PIM for a game so far in 2017-18. Somehow Matthew Tkachuk wasn’t even involved.

    Again, it was a little senseless, which admittedly is sometimes the most entertaining form of violence.

    ¯_(ツ)_/¯

    The Stars pummeled the Panthers 6-1, by the way.

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    Sharks’ Hertl ejected; Joe Thornton injured?

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    Brad Marchand isn’t the only player who delivered a questionable hit on Tuesday, as Tomas Hertl of the San Jose Sharks is also likely to draw the attention of the Department of Player Safety.

    Hertl received a game misconduct and major penalty for boarding Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, as you can see in the video above this post’s headline.

    For whatever it’s worth, Hertl, 24, hasn’t been suspended in the NHL. It seems like Kulikov suffered at least some ill effects from the hit.

    Some put at least a portion of blame on Kulikov for turning his back before the check.

    Is the major penalty sufficient or should Hertl sit for that hit?

    Update: The Jets ended up beating the Sharks 4-3 in overtime, but the bigger concern for San Jose is that Joe Thornton might be injured. More information may not come for a while.

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    Should Brad Marchand be suspended for elbow on Marcus Johansson?

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    Much has been made of Brad Marchand cleaning up his act, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Boston Bruins forward has totally stopped blurring the line between “physical” and “illegal” play.

    Marchand was everywhere in the Bruins’ 3-2 win against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday, and that was mostly in a good way, scoring a goal and an assist, easily leading all forwards with 20:06 time on ice.

    Devils fans were unhappy when Marchand wasn’t penalized for a highly questionable elbow on forward Marcus Johansson. You can watch the infraction in the video above this post. You can also see it in GIF form below.

    NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty reports that the Department of Player Safety is aware of the elbow, and supplemental discipline may come:

    Again, many recall other incidents with Marchand, so plenty were unhappy with the situation:

    What do you think? Is a suspension appropriate in this case?

    More on the Bruins:How will they cope without Charlie McAvoy?

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.