Despite outshooting the Nashville Predators 23-9 over the final 40 minutes of action, the Chicago Blackhawks still couldn’t come out of Thursday’s Game 1 with a win as they fell 1-0 in the series opener at the United Center.
What went wrong for the Blackhawks in Game 1? What do they need to change if they are going to tie things up in Game 2?
For answers to those questions, here are our three thoughts from the Game 1 defeat.
Powerless Power Play an Issue
Coming into Thursday’s game, the Blackhawks were 2-of-28 on the power play in their last eight games of the regular season, and that power outage continued as they failed on both of their man-advantage situations in the game.
The Blackhawks seem to be having an issue with their personnel, and their puck movement simply wasn’t good enough in the game. Joel Quenneville tried to vary up the players that he had stationed at the blue line, but it didn’t do much as the puck wasn’t moving fast enough to keep up with the aggressive forechecking that Nashville deployed.
If the Blackhawks are going to force the issue on the man-advantage, they’re going to need to make some adjustments in strategy. Guys like Richard Panik and Jonathan Toews need to crash the net harder than they did in Game 1, and players like Duncan Keith and perhaps even Trevor van Riemsdyk need to be more decisive at the point, which would keep Nashville from settling into their defense and could create openings for guys like Patrick Kane in the slot and in the area in the middle of the ice.
Game 2 Line Combinations Should Likely Mirror Game 1 Changes
The Blackhawks went into Game 1 with a set lineup, and Quenneville immediately shook things up after the first period as the Blackhawks managed just one shot on goal in the final 14 minutes of play in the period.
Some of the changes that Quenneville made should definitely carry over to the second game of the series. Tanner Kero was absolutely fantastic with Toews and Panik, and he may find a new home on the first line after forcing Nick Schmaltz down the depth chart.
Putting Schmaltz in between Marian Hossa and Ryan Hartman could be a very intriguing combination moving forward as well. He has the great hands and the skill to find both of those guys open on offense, and between the three of them they should be able to play adequate defense against a Predators team that seemed to lack the urgency and firepower that they’ve displayed during the regular season.
Aggressive Blue Line Should Remain on the Attack
One of the good adjustments that the Blackhawks made early in the game was noticing that Nashville was dropping into coverage super early in plays, basically conceding the defensive half of the ice to the Blackhawks.
That plan worked beautifully in the first period, as the Blackhawks struggled to get the puck through the zone, but once they adjusted to what Nashville was doing, pucks started getting deep on dump-ins, and the team was hitting the blue line with a lot more speed as the defensemen were firing stretch passes and bank passes off the boards.
Guys like van Riemsdyk and Duncan Keith really seemed to enjoy the more open gameplay, and that strategy could definitely be a part of the mix moving forward in Game 2. If the Predators want to play a conservative game and hope that one goal is going to be enough to win, they’re going to be in for a rude surprise, as the Blackhawks are definitely capable of exploiting that strategy.