That First Step Is A Doozy: Preds 4 - Hawks 1
Seeing as how McClure pathetically can't rouse himself out of bed by 2pm, and Kills is working, I'll pinch hit for a wrap here. By now you've all seen or read the recaps elsewhere, so we can just get to the observations.
-Well, the first 40 were good. That doesn't count for much, and though the score only read 1-0 after them, I couldn't find much to complain about. The Hawks were murdering the Preds in the faceoff circle (Bolland when 7 for 9 on the night), were patient, and most of all their coverage in their zone was immaculate. The Preds had once chance from the middle in the first two periods, and that came off a Hjalmarsson turnover (which we saw too much of). The Hawks probably could have gotten more bodies to Rinne, and I expect they will tomorrow. But they created a few chances, and Sharp hit a post.
-Even with what looks like an ugly 3rd, the Preds still required a fluky goal and a turnover from Troy Brouwer that warrants jail time to take the lead. Though they kept the Hawks play in their zone for a majority of the 3rd and were immaculate in their defensive zone, Niemi didn't have to make save after save.
-What is discouraging is the way the Hawks tightened up after the game was tied, which is very strange from this team. This is a Hawks team that trailed in both Games 1 and 2 against Calgary, and IN EVERY GAME against Vancouver, and merely laughed at all those deficits. What was so daunting about this? The label as favorites shouldn't make a difference when you're on the ice, and we'll find out tomorrow if it really does.
-The Preds d-men were exceptional in holding the offensive blue line, and keeping the Hawks cycling back in their own end. They also stood up at their own very well. They constantly outworked the Hawks at them, and that's going to have to change Sunday.
-But remember, the Preds don't trap. They actually play with 7 guys when they don't have the puck. That's why it looks like they're forechecking and trapping at the same time.
-Rinne did what he had to, but there were a couple rebounds lying around that the Hawks had better make more than one goal of in the coming games. Same could be said for Antti Niemi.
-The 3rd pairing got murdered last night, with Hendry and Sopel combining for a -27 in Corsi. Either Coach Q is going to have to split them up, or he's going to have to split up Buff and Keith to give another pairing someone who can skate the puck out of the zone.
-Buff had more than his share of turnovers last night. Hurry back, Soup.
-The ice was just about awful. For all their talk of being the best organization in the NHL, the Hawks sure don't take their actual playing surface very seriously. There's only so much that can be done in a multi-purpose facility, but whoever scheduled another event in the middle of the playoffs should be beaten with an alligator.
-It's best of 7, kids, not best of 1. While I feel the Hawks can turn their play up a couple notches, I feel like that's Nashville's best punch, and the Hawks are going to have to match and exceed it. No one said this was going to be a sweep, and I honestly won't be shocked if the Hawks - now knowing they can' just show up and win - rip off the next four. The answers are coming, Neo.