Blackhawks clinch playoff spot and find power switch on their power play in Nashville
Sometimes things are sweeter when you have to work for them and they don’t come so easy. As a fan of hockey, I have to say this game had it all & then some. In a game that saw the Hawks running away with the game to start and then have it come down to a nail biting finish is what hockey is all about. Who says the playoffs start on April 11th? I think they’ve already begun.
The Blackhawks held on to defeat the Nashville Predators and in the process secure themselves a ticket to the playoffs. Unlike last year they determined their own fate and did not leave it on another team's sticks. The Hawks have learned from past mistakes which says a lot about this team.
Along the way the Hawks also found their elusive power play which may not get play in the media but it is huge. The Nashville Predators are one of the top penalty killing teams in the league too boot so for them to score on them on the power play is monumental and should give this team confidence. Both Patrick Sharp and Dave Bolland scored the first two Hawks goals on the power play.
The game you knew would be special from the very start. Even though Jim Cornelison was not singing the National Anthem at Bridgestone Arena there was still cheering through the anthem with a very very large Blackhawks contingent on hand in Nashville.
The first period was all Corey Crawford as he kept his team in the game. He did everything, he withstood intense pressure at one point without his stick, flashed his glove that made you think it was Carl Crawford out there when he robbed Hornqvist on a backhander and he performed the splits in his crease with ninja like movements to keep the Hawks at a 1-0 lead.
The second period saw five goals scored and the momentum shifting from the Blackhawks to the Predators. Chicago scored three goals from Bolland on the power play, then Kane on a breakaway from a sweet Hjalmarsson stretch pass. Kane went five hole to beat Rinne. Stalberg turned on his jets again but scored from an unusual position. He scored from behind the Predators net which bounced in off of Rinne’s back. The tide turned and then Nashiville scored themselves on the power play from Martin Erat.
Shea Weber scored two goals on blasts from the point and Alexander Radulov scored on a backhander that beat Crawford. At this point the game was tied at four goals apiece and looked like the Preds who have had the Hawks number all year might thwart the Hawks chances for clinching a playoff spot.
Then on a sweet dish from Andrew Shaw ala Patrick Kane style with a pinpoint back hand pass found a wide open Brent Seabrook who had jumped up in the play and had a wide open net and did not miss to give the Hawks their 5-4 win.
Brent Seabrook has really stepped up for the Hawks and is shining in a leadership role. Not only is that point they got in the game against the Devils because of him he contributed a goal and assist and the goal was the game winner. He also lead the team with TOI 31:12. He is leading his team too in +/- coming down the stretch.
Viktor Stalberg when he decides to go into another gear he is almost unstoppable. I also see an improvement in his defensive positioning and game as well. This guy could be an uncalculated force against the opposition in the playoffs.
Everyone needs to watch their spacing and positioning and keep playing your defensive team game it’s working don’t change a thing.
Keep working on the power play it is coming around. If the Hawks can get this going especially in the playoffs it will be a big lift.
There were a couple of surprises in this game. The Predators tried to play the Hawks style of open offensive run and gun style and not their usual tight defensive play which they may have regretted later. I’m not sure if they thought they would catch the Hawks unprepared or what. They also uncharacteristically gave up a lot of turnovers and took a lot of penalties. Somehow I have a feeling we will be seeing this team again.
The Hawks should savor this one along with the great win over the Blues. They should now know they are ready for the playoffs and can play with anyone. Keep in mind too they are doing this without captain Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith. When they get everyone back who knows how far this team can go. The leadership on this team is amazing whether it is Seabrook or Kane or Hossa or Sharp someone always seems to step up when needed and make big plays. You never know from one game to the other who it will be which, will make them hard to game plan for and at just the right time. Let the playoffs begin!
Three stars of the game – 1) Brent Seabrook 2) Ryan Suter 3) Shea Weber
Hawks play again Sunday against the Minnesota Wild which can be caught on WGN or WGN Radio 720. Start time is at 6:00 pm CT.
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