The Blackhawks weren’t entering the weekend with any major concerns.
Sure, it would have been nice to close out the Nashville Predators in Game 5 on Thursday night but they still have a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven, first-round series. And they get another chance at the United Center.
“We have a great opportunity here. It’s home ice and everyone’s back to play in front of the home crowd and have a big chance to score on a great note,” Niklas Hjalmarsson said on Friday. “We don’t want to go back to Nashville.”
That last sentence is key. The Blackhawks certainly don’t want to go back to Nashville, where the Predators have won the last two games, outscoring the Blackhawks 11-4 in the process. If this series goes to a Game 7, you’d have to wonder how much of an advantage the Predators would have entering it.
So it’s simple: finish this off at home, where you’ve already won Games 3 and 4. If the Blackhawks get to the second round they’ll face either the St. Louis Blues or Minnesota Wild, who are locked in a 2-2 series heading into Game 5 on Friday night. A couple of days’ worth of rest wouldn’t be so bad facing either squad.
“I think the days off do wonders every round,” Kris Versteeg said. “It takes a physical toll on you, the amount of periods we played in the series, going into triple and double overtime. So closing it out on Saturday would be huge for us, especially from a health standpoint.”
For Game 6, a few things have to change. The Blackhawks need to limit the great chances the Predators have been getting. Nashville has shown that, if given rebounds, turnovers and other gaffes, it’ll score off them. Again, this is not new territory for the Blackhawks, as far as knowing how to win at this juncture.
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“Yeah, experience goes a long way for certain kinds of games where, [if] a few bounces don’t go our way, we don’t lose composure. We focus on the next shift,” Bryan Bickell said. “For the guys who have been on this team and have played a lot of playoff games and played big games in their careers, it’s nice to have us fall on experience and leadership we have to help carry this team.”
Thursday’s outcome wasn’t a total shock. The Predators were going to do everything they could to extend their postseason and took advantage of every chance the Blackhawks gave them to do that.
“Tomorrow is the day to have a solid 60 minutes and try to end the series,” Hjalmarsson said. “We know Nashville is going to bring everything they have. They did last game and we weren’t happy with the way we played. Hopefully we bring 60 solid minutes and bring a big win.”