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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    WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins at Tampa Bay Lightning – Game 6

    PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 22:  Tyler Johnson #9 of the Tampa Bay Lightning collides with Phil Kessel #81 of the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 22, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)
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    Tonight could be the final game of the Eastern Conference Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning. You can catch Game 6 via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

    Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay (8:00 p.m. ET)

    The television broadcast of Game 6 is on NBCSN. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here. The Bolts lead the series 3-2.

    Here’s some relevant reading material to get you ready for tonight’s game:

    Malkin guaranteed a Penguins win in Game 6

    Lightning coach doesn’t seem flustered by Malkin’s guarantee

    Kucherov continues to be clutch for the Bolts this postseason

    Marc-Andre Fleury: ‘I should have been better’ in Game 5

    Will Ward be back with Carolina? Francis discusses ‘interesting summer’

    NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 29:  Cam Ward #30 of the Carolina Hurricanes skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on December 29, 2015 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Hurricanes 3-2.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Honestly, if you look at Cam Ward‘s numbers, it’s difficult to imagine the Carolina Hurricanes signing him to another contract.

    (Unless perhaps you just keep circling “Stanley Cup: 1.”)

    His numbers have been putrid by just about any metric, especially if you look at the numbers he generated since signing the bloated $37.8 million deal that is set to expire.

    Maybe the Hurricanes are just going through the media motions in appearing open-minded about bring back Ward, but GM Ron Francis indicated that it’s under consideration in discussing Carolina’s off-season with the News & Observer.

    “We’re still looking at that,” Francis said. “We plan to meet in early June to see where we’re at.”

    More details:

    Francis said “term and money” would be the key elements of the contract discussions – that is, the length of contract and salary being proposed. At the same time, Francis said the Canes would evaluate free agents or possibly goalies who might be available in a trade.

    Teams play things pretty close-to-the-vest, but how would Hurricanes fans feel about Ward coming back? What kind of price would be palatable?

    Here’s a list of potential free agent goalies if you want to pass some time pondering such questions.

    Stanley Cup Final to begin Monday

    NHL_2016_StanleyCupPlayoffs
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    We don’t know who’s in or where it will begin, but we do know this — the 2016 Stanley Cup Final will begin next Monday.

    From the league:

    The National Hockey League today announced the schedule of dates for the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, which will begin on Monday, May 30. Additionally, Stanley Cup Final Media Day will be Sunday, May 29, in the host city for Game 1.

    The Stanley Cup Final will match the winner of the Eastern Conference Final, either the Pittsburgh Penguins or Tampa Bay Lightning, against the winner of the Western Conference Final, either the St. Louis Blues or San Jose Sharks.

    The club which earned the greater number of points in the 2015-16 regular season standings will have home-ice advantage in the Stanley Cup Final and will host Games 1, 2 and, if necessary, Games 5 and 7. The other club will host Games 3 and 4 and, if necessary, Game 6. The Blues collected 107 points during the regular season, most among the remaining teams, followed by the Penguins (104), Sharks (98) and Lightning (97).

    The start time for all Stanley Cup Final games will be 8 p.m. ET. NBC Sports Group has exclusive coverage of the Final in the U.S., while CBC and TVA Sports have exclusive coverage throughout Canada.

    2016 STANLEY CUP FINAL SCHEDULE
    (all start times 8 p.m., ET)

    Game 1 Monday, May 30
    Game 2 Wednesday, June 1
    Game 3 Saturday, June 4
    Game 4 Monday, June 6
    Game 5* Thursday, June 9
    Game 6* Sunday, June 12
    Game 7* Wednesday, June 15

    This marks the first time the Stanley Cup Final will begin in May since 2012, when the Kings took on the Devils in New Jersey (on the 30th).

    L.A. went on to capture that series in five games, wrapping things up on June 11.

    After two years in Switzerland, Tom Pyatt signs with Sens

    PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 22:  Tom Pyatt #11 of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Simon Despres #47 of the Pittsburgh Penguins battle for a loose puck during the game at Consol Energy Center on March 22, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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    Tom Pyatt is back in the NHL.

    Or, at least, back with an NHL organization.

    After spending the last two seasons with Swiss club Geneve Servette, the 29-year-old forward has signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Ottawa Senators.

    “We’re very pleased that Tom has committed to our organization for next season,” said GM Pierre Dorion in a release. “He has already accumulated a significant amount of experience at both the American and National Hockey League levels and provides us with solid depth at forward. Having spent his last two seasons playing professionally in Switzerland, members of our coaching staff are familiar with his versatility. We’re looking forward to seeing him in training camp.”

    The Sens, of course, just hired a head coach in Guy Boucher who’s spent the last few years in Switzerland. (Also, an assistant coach.)

    Pyatt’s deal is worth $800,000 in the NHL and $200,000 in the AHL.

    Before leaving for Switzerland in August of 2014, Pyatt played 245 NHL games with the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning, scoring 27 goals and 27 assists.