Chicago Blackhawks Eliminate Nashville Predators

USATSI_8538942_154158418_lowresThe Chicago Blackhawks have eliminated the Nashville Predators, closing out their opening round playoff series with a 4-3 victory on Saturday night.

The Predators looked like they might have a handle on things early, scoring three goals in just over 11 minutes in the first period. They even chased goalie Scott Darling, causing Corey Crawford to jump in to relieve the 26-year-old. And that was all it took. The Blackhawks had three first period goals of their own and the game was tied until 16:12 of the third.

That was when Duncan Keith scored and put the series away four games to two for Chicago.

Keith was a workhorse for the Blackhawks, putting in 28 minutes and coming up with three points, six shots and two blocked shots. Patrick Sharp also had a good game, scoring Chicago’s first goal in the first period and adding an assist later on. He had five shots on goal in roughly a dozen minutes on ice and finished the series with five points in six games.

The Blackhawks’ big guns were indeed big when they needed to be. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane had the other two goals in Game Six and they were huge in the series, with Toews having eight points in six games and Kane adding seven of his own.

Goaltending was a touch of a sticking point for Chicago as evidenced by their difficulties in Game Six. Darling got the nod for the final game and actually started the last four games after Crawford was defeated by a 6-2 final in Game Two of the series. Darling was solid, coming up with a 2.21 goals against average and a .936 save percentage. But Crawford was big when he needed to be, despite some poor statistics, and he could be the sentimental choice as the Blackhawks enter the second round.

Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne faced a ton of shots (208 in six games) and played as well as he could be expected to, posting a 2.68 goals against average and a .909 save percentage. He was easily the most active goalie in the first round of these playoffs, at least so far, and on most nights he was the main reason his team was in the running.

James Neal had two of Nashville’s three goals on Saturday night, adding up for a total of four in the series and five points overall. He had 25 shots on goal throughout six games.

Filip Forsberg had a good series against Chicago. He had six points in six games, including four goals (one on the power play) and he often looked in control despite enduring some rather unforgiving coverage from the Blackhawks. He emerged as a durable player for the Preds when it mattered and that should go a long way.

20-year-old defenceman Seth Jones saw a lot of ice time and he looked downright great in places even though he finished with a disappointing minus-6. He had four points and logged a team-leading 27:05 in Game Six, including 3:17 on the power play.

In the end, however, the Blackhawks were just that much better. They put away the series despite a hard fight from their opponents and they’ll go on to face the winner of the St. Louis/Minnesota series.


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