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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    This fight between Tom Wilson, Chris Stewart got downright gory (Video)

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    For those who decry the decline in fighting – in “blood and guts” hockey – Tuesday presented a bloody moment, one fairly high on this season’s Muta scale.

    Also, for some, seeing it happen to Tom Wilson specifically may provide additional pleasure.

    Anyway, as you can see in the video above, Minnesota Wild winger Chris Stewart bloodied the Washington Capitals pest in a fight. Whether you’re for, against or neutral toward Wilson, it’s quite the sight.

    Wilson may be hurt, by the way. He missed some time but returned later in the contest.

    Milestones: Matthews, Nylander break Leafs rookie records; Chara hits 600

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    Auston Matthews likely ranks as the top reason that many Toronto Maple Leafs are starting to get the same feelings they had in better times, so it only makes sense that he broke a beloved Buds’ record on Tuesday.

    With his 35th goal of a potential Calder season – but a brilliant debut either way – Matthews passed Wendel Clark for the Maple Leafs’ rookie record for goals in a season.

    That goal was also meaningful for William Nylander, as he extended his point streak to 12 games with an assist. This team, fueled by young players, just keeps shattering first-year marks:

    Switching gears, let’s go from new to (relatively) old: Zdeno Chara collected the 600th point of his outstanding career with an assist:

    Yes, it’s true that most people think of his imposing size and all-world defensive instincts in praising Chara, but he’s been a respectable point producer, too.

    U.S. women end boycott, will represent USA Hockey at worlds

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    The U.S. women’s national team voted in favor of accepting USA Hockey’s deal, so they’ll participate in the world championship tournament. USA Hockey recently made the news official with this press release.

    The press release confirmed a report that the contract will last four years, while financial terms were kept confidential. (Team members had been seeking a living wage to represent USA Hockey.)

    “Our sport is the big winner today,” Team captain Meghan Duggan said. “We stood up for what we thought was right and USA Hockey’s leadership listened. In the end, both sides came together. I’m proud of my teammates and can’t thank everyone who supported us enough. It’s time now to turn the page. We can’t wait to play in the World Championship later this week in front of our fans as we try and defend our gold medal.”

    The U.S. women’s national team is scheduled to face Canada on Friday.

    Here’s a screen cap of the press release for your convenience:

    Logan Couture can at least speak and eat following horrifying mouth injury

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    As much as many of us suffer during a trip to the dentist, few can fathom the horrors hockey players often go through when a puck, stick or fist finds their teeth/mouths. Consult this vintage PHT post from 2010 if you want to cringe, a lot.

    Much like Eddie Lack “only” dealing with a neck sprain, it’s strange to be heartened to hear that Logan Couture can speak and eat after his own painful ordeal, but that’s the positive update from the Mercury News on Tuesday.

    Couture, Wilson said, did not need to have his jaw wired shut after a deflected puck caught him in the mouth on Saturday when the Sharks played the Nashville Predators.

    “Hey, he can speak and eat … and his jaw isn’t wired shut!” Yeesh.

    To little surprise, Couture isn’t playing on Tuesday. As far as the Sharks next three games (Thursday, Friday and Sunday), that remains to be seen.

    As an aside, consider this: on the same day Jonathan Drouin‘s celebrating his birthday after helping the Lightning win, Couture is lucky if he can force down some birthday cake. Life: it isn’t always fair.

    PHT discussed his trip to the dentist on Monday.

    More mouth pain: When David Backes felt like his face was falling off.