A process made far longer and more laborious than usual that eventually reaches what usually is a satisfactory ending marred by the miles it took to get there that at that point both participants are just happy it’s over. But one side is much happier with the ending than the other. There’s last night for you.
I saw a lot of people saying that Game 1 was Nashville’s best punch and that the series was over because the Hawks only took a standing eight count and then won anyway. I wasn’t sure. The Preds had the first of three horrible 2nd periods that night, Rinne wasn’t very good, and they still almost got it. Last night/this morning felt like a better right hook that still didn’t connect. The Preds actually won the 2nd period for once, Rinne was much better than he’d been all series (though still not looking totally comfortable), they’d kept Kane quiet, and had a lead in the 3rd.
Now they’re faced with winning three in a row, which they’ve done once since February, including one here which they haven’t managed this season yet. Now you might consider whether they’re deflated or not. Let’s get to it all.
The Two Obs
-The Predators obviously looked at Game 3’s film, saw they weren’t quite as aggressive as they were in the first two games, and decided that even without Weber it was time to push it real good. They were everywhere last night, and I think I counted at least four separate occasions where both d-men jumped up on a rush before the puck had even gotten across the red line. Even without Weber that blue line can really move, in fact I don’t think I can name a more mobile defense in the league.
It was the same story in the Hawks zone, where the Preds turned up the forechecking pressure, and took advantage of what Fifth Feather pointed out after Game 3. The Hawks kept trying to reverse-pass their way out of pressure, but the Preds waited even longer to sink back in the neutral zone, always smelling yet another pass behind the net coming. It led to an at-times icky first 40 minutes. As the game wore on, somewhat due to the Preds being ahead, the Hawks were able to diffuse this more often with the stretch passes and high flips out of the zone we’ve only been calling for since Game 1. It wasn’t always perfect but it sure beat trying to make 12 tape-to-tapes just for the Hawks to get over their own blue line.
-I would like to not see Seth Jones anymore. And it’s still hilarious that Sakic and Roy thought they didn’t need him. Wonder what they think watching him now.
-Watching Joel Quenneville inch toward his optimum lineup in the playoffs every year is like watching the turtle races at Big Joe’s. You know he’s pointed the right way, and there’s a good chance he might get where he’s needed to but you don’t know if he’ll just stop and/or reverse course out of randomness/confusion/anger.
After two periods, and I’d like to think after Kane threatened Versteeg’s life in the dressing room at intermission, Q finally punted KRS-23 off the 2nd line and replaced him with Bickell. For the first two periods Kane and Richards were each -4 in Corsi. In the 3rd alone they were each +3. Not that Bickell is the hero we want, but he might be the hero we need. That line has been screaming out for someone to open a little space and at least occupy defenders at the net, which Bickell knows how to do. No coincidence the winner came from Bickell heading to the net, retrieving the puck, occupying a d-man, allowing Kane time to spin around the net to find Seabrook. This isn’t fucking rocket science, a sentence I’ve said no less than 873 times this series.
-Now, if we could just get Versteeg out for Teuvo we’d be there, because Sharp’s activity this series seriously needs to be complimented by someone who can consistently get him the puck as well as flipping him back to his better left side.
What is clear is that Andrew Shaw has no business there, as he’s highly effective on the 4th line and dragged Vermette and Sharp down when promoted.
-I feel like a team bigger than the Preds is going to make Scott Darling pay for the rebounds he leaves lying around, but maybe not if the Hawks are as concentrated as collapsing around him as they’ve been the past two games. At least they know what they have to do.
-I guess I’m not surprised that Timonen couldn’t manage more time last night, because that sure felt like his best game as a Hawk and by some margin (low bar, admittedly). He was active in the offensive zone and getting through the neutral zone, even getting up on some odd-mans. He wasn’t snowed under in the defensive zone. While Rozsival had himself a good game as well, felt like there was more to get from Kimmo. But as we know, it can take an eternity to get into the circle of trust.
-While much will be made of Keith’s 46 minutes, in reality it’s not even half the game which would have had him somewhere around the 28 minute mark over 60 minutes, which is more than reasonable for him.
I have no idea what we’ll get from the Hawks Thursday. For the Q era they generally have not missed when they have a chance to end a season. The only non-Game 7 loss in an elimination game was in ’10 to Vancouver, which was quickly corrected. But this team this year has specialized in doing just enough, and might feel with the margin of error of a home game on Saturday if they don’t get it done tomorrow, they might not come out with the usual lightning bolts out of their collective arse. But this Weber and Fisher-less opponent is basically asking to be put out of its misery.