Welcome to our barn Chicago! That’s right, it’s Hockey Night in Smashville. For those who know me, there are three things that get me all riled up. 1) Anytime Detroit comes to town. 2) Anytime I hear or read anything negative about Nashville being a small market non-traditional hockey town. 3) Playoff home games in Smashville
Tonight, Chicago comes to town for the first time in a playoff series. Think 100,000 Tennessee fans at a NASCAR race all crammed into a 17,128-seat arena. There is nowhere for the sound to but straight down on the ice. After missing the playoffs last year, Smashville is fired up and ready for their first home playoff game in two years.
Most experts publicly predicted an easy series for Chicago, but privately expected a much closer series and possibly even a Nashville win. After a game one upset at Chicago, Nashville suffered a huge let down in intensity and gave Chicago and their fans the opening they needed to tie up the series. While some may be happy with a split in the first two games, Nashville gave up an excellent opportunity to take a 2-0 advantage. That opportunity isn’t totally lost, as the series moves back to Nashville for the next two games. If Nashville can play the way they did in game one and sweep Chicago in the next two games, they will force Chicago to win the last three games to advance. If Chicago manages to split the next two games, they will reclaim home ice advantage with two home games in the final three.
As we look at game #3, here are the key points for each team:
Denis Grebeshkov – Out since 3/9 with lower body injury – Is skating with the team – Is available for game #2. If inserted into the game, will replace Cody Franson who due to his lack of speed might be a liability against the speedy Blackhawks
Patrick Hornqvist – First he was injured, then he wasn’t. Then he had equipment issues, and then he was hurt again. After playing in game one of the series, Hornqvist was a late scratch before game two. The impact of not having Nashville’s best scoring forward in the game was evident as team failed to step up in his absence. If Hornqvist is out for game three, someone will have to step up and assume his role in the crease collecting rebounds and shielding the goalie. See Jason Arnott below.
Brian Campbell – Out since 3/14 with a broken clavicle and ribs – Is currently skating with team ahead of schedule – Might possibly return during the series – Not expected to be in game #3
Kim Johnsson –Out since 3/13 with possible concussion – Has not started skating with the team – Not expected to play in first round series.
Players to Watch:
Pekka Rinne – Rinne has allowed only 3 goals in the first two game and has carried this team. You can’t blame the game two loss on him as he was the only reason the game wasn’t a blow out. However, for Nashville to be successful, Rinne must continue to play at the level he has for the last two months.
Jason Arnott – At some point you just have to stop being nice. I am at that point. When you are the senior veteran player on the team, one of the top earners on the team, and the team’s Captain, there are high expectations. Just showing up and putting on your equipment isn’t one of those expectations, but that is about all Arnott has done in this series. He has shown no urgency, zero offensive contribution, and has totally ignored the physical aspects of the game. Hopefully, a change of venue and the home crowd will spark that inner demon that when aroused makes him one of the more dominating players in the game. If Patrick Hornqvist is not able to dress up for game three, it doubles the importance of Arnott stepping up.
Shea Weber and Ryan Suter – Take notes on Arnott and spread evenly between Weber and Suter. Nashville’s top defensive line has played admirably on defense in the first two games helping to hold Chicago and their high-powered offense to only three goals. However, Weber and Suter are expected to contribute more than just defense. They must just find a way to contribute offensively, especially on the power play where Nashville has gone 0-7.
Dan Hamhuis / Kevin Klien – It’s hard to criticize your 2nd line defensive pairing when only three goals have been scored against you in a series. Unfortunately, both Klien and Hamhuis were on the ice for all three of those goals. Shutting down Chicago or contributing offensively will go a long way towards improving crowd reaction while on the ice.
Antti Niemi – Antti Niemi rebounded from his game one debacle with a shutout in game two. Just as Pekka Rinne is critical to Nashville’s success, Niemi must rise to the occasion for Chicago. The big question is how Niemi will react to a hostile Nashville crowd in the next two games.
Marian Hossa – The Marian Hossa curse continues to linger. Hossa has played well in the first two games, but has failed to notch any points on the scoresheet. Hossa isn’t the type of player who stays scoreless for too long. For Nashville to succeed in game three, they must find a way to keep Hossa from regaining his scoring touch.
Patrick Kane – Is there anyone who can stop Patrick Kane? He is a pure goal scoring and always seems to give 100% on every shift. The problem with Kane isn’t that he can score. It’s that he has the ability to change the momentum of a game and energize the rest of Chicago’s offensive weapons. In a series that hinges on momentum shifts, stopping Kane must be Nashville’s top priority.
Three Keys to the Game:
1) Stay out of the Penalty Box. Don’t give Chicago the added benefit of a power play to showcase their offense.
2) Remind Chicago whose house they are in. Hit them hard, often, and keep them out of the offensive zone. Control the boards and play with the urgency and grit that has defined them througout the year. Feed off of the crowd and keep them fired up.
3) Crash the net on both offense and defense.
1) Show Patience. Nashville will come out strong in front of their home crowd. If Chicago is able to stay with their game plan and prevent early mistakes, eventually the pucks will find the net.
2) Stay out of the penalty box. Not that Chicago should be worried about Nashville’s power play, but playing short handed eliminates the advantage Chicago has with overall skill.
3) Protect Niemi. This is Niemi’s first road playoff game. Nashville is going to crash the nets all night long. Chicago must control the boards and keep Nashville from crowding in front of the net.
Date: Sunday 4/20
Location: Bridgestone Arena – Nashville
Time: 9:00 Eastern (8:00 Central)
Television: VERSUS(HD), RIS, TSN(HD), FS-TN(HD)
About the Author
Written by Mark Jasper