Nashville earned a commanding 6-2 victory over Chicago on Friday to even the first round series at 1-1, but that was back when they were playing at the Bridgestone Arena. Throughout the season, the Predators have done significantly worse on the road and that trend continued with their 4-2 loss to Chicago this afternoon.
Which isn’t to suggest that the change in venue was the only factor in this game. Losing top-tier defenseman Shea Weber clearly hurt Nashville tonight. The fact that he’ll also be absent for Game 4 on Tuesday should be an area of substantial concern for the Predators. Part of the reason for that is goaltender Pekka Rinne’s shaky play as of late.
Early this season Rinne looked like a Vezina Trophy candidate, but as the campaign went on, Rinne declined substantially. He had a 2.48 GAA and .911 save percentage in 27 contests after the All-Star break and those struggles have carried into the playoffs. The Predators did make defensive mistakes which contributed to this loss, but it’s also true that Rinne wasn’t able to bail his defense out often enough tonight.
At the other end of the ice, Blackhawks goaltender Scott Darling did a great job in his first start of the playoffs. Given Corey Crawford’s 6.75 GAA and .809 save percentage in two games against Nashville, it would be interesting if coach Joel Quenneville decided to go back to his veteran netminder for Game 4.
Chicago’s Jonathan Toews also had a big game with a goal and an assist while Brandon Saad’s marker proved to be the winner.
The Blackhawks have a 2-1 series lead with with two of the last four contests scheduled to be played in Chicago.