Preds lead 1-0
PUCK DROP: 7pm Central
WHY DID YOU KILL THAT BIRD, ASSHOLE?: On The Forecheck
It’s almost as if it’s scripted these days. We’ve seen it before. Whatever playoff game the opponent simply packs it in their zone, traps just outside the offensive blue line, crowds their own crease, and we hear all the same things from the Hawks and the media covering them. “Traffic.” “Take away his eyes.” “Be harder (PHRASING).” “Annette Frontpresence.”
And it’s not that all of this is wrong. It’s just that you wouldn’t hear any of it if Anisimov isn’t rusty and buries one or two of his chances, or a shot into that said traffic bounces onto someone’s stick or past Rinne. It’s not like the Hawks have to make massive changes, and we don’t know if the Predators will or not either.
Still, for one game Q is going to the blender again, which seems a little finicky. Hartman and Schmaltz are going to swap spots. Which doesn’t add up totally, because Kruger and Hossa make for a very good two-way, checking line that can score. Hartman can add to that, but Schmaltz cannot. Hossa will love having a playmaker on the opposite wing, but if you’re not throwing Kruger at Johansen or even Jarnkrok, you’re not really using him properly.
Maybe that’s the plan for Toews’s line with Hartman there, to be the hybrid top checking/scoring line. Because without Schmaltz it lacks a dash, but maybe blunt force is the prescription tonight. As we know, this will almost certainly change throughout the game. Just hopefully not too much.
One thing Q shouldn’t be hesitant to change is his power play. Just have your normal first line on the first unit plus Toews with Keith as the only d-man. Or just the Russian Spies with Keith and Seabrook with Keith being a rover. Having Toews just stationed in front is again, not the best use. Having Keith as the only d-man on the first leaves Seabrook and Campbell to combine on the second, which saves us TVR’s confused gape on the PP and I think we’re all here for that. If the Predators are going to once again go Mourinho on this, power plays are going to have a bigger role than normal.
But ah… what will Peter Laviolette do? The Predators are not a team built to play a trap-and-collapse style. They did it once, and did it well. Lavvy may want to keep the Hawks on their heels, as well not going to a well that may have already run dry. So don’t be shocked if you see the Predators actually move up through the gears tonight, and try to beat the Hawks with their speed. That’s certainly more in character for them. They already got the win they need here to win this series–or so they’ll think–and figure with house money you might as well go hellbent for leather.
Which could be an issue, especially if Keith is going to be lost-in-the-woods-and-darkness again. The Hawks game is about damming the flow at their blue line and turning right around. If they’re getting beat to the outside consistently, and really only Keith and Campbell can prevent this, that’s where things break down. The Preds would still have to finish of course, which they’re short on, if it’s not Forsberg-Johansen-Arvidsson doing the work.
It could be a cagey first period. It would be a mistake for the Hawks to come out and immediately expect the same plan from the Predators, and get caught in a track meet they never saw coming. If the Preds are indeed reenacting the Alamo, clearly the first goal is vital. Even if this takes a period or two or three, the Hawks are not an outfit to sweat it or panic, even if you might at home. Throwing shots from all over the ice isn’t going to solve anything.