1. Close-out games are tough.
We’ve heard this one before but it’s worth repeating — the last game to win in a series is the toughest. And it should be. Facing elimination, you are fighting with every ounce of strength and will to get that boot off your throat so that you can get back up off the mat. And if Predators can do that tonight, they will be on even terms with the Blackhawks heading back home.
That’s a pretty big motivator for the Preds, and the Hawks are well aware of it. That’s why you have to weaken their will with strong shifts from the drop of the puck. Get pucks deep, get them back with a ferocious forecheck and get pucks on goaltender Pekka Rinne.
2. Play with a lead.
Even though the Blackhawks are up 3-2 in the series, they haven’t played with a lead very often. Over the five games thus far, Chicago has led on the scoreboard for just 37 minutes and 15 seconds. That’s out of almost 369 minutes already played in this series.
Just over 10 percent of the time has Chicago been in the lead. That’s a big advantage for the Predators, especially a team that doesn’t have a lot of playoff experience. It lets them feel like they can run with the big dogs and be competitive. Fatigue sets in a lot earlier when you are chasing the game. Get the lead early and don’t look back.
3. Power play needs to be a factor.
Since scoring a couple of power play goals in Game 1 in Nashville, the power play has come up empty. A dry run of 0-for-13 does not give you a lot of confidence with the extra attacker, and it can actually provide momentum for the defenders.
By comparison, Nashville has struck for five power-play tallies, although one was into an empty net in the last game. Both special team goals scored by Chicago were down low, so it’s important that the Hawks are taking the puck to the net. Point shots are fine to open up the box, but the down-low play has to be more of an option, especially the way Patrick Kane was playing last game. Give him the puck on the boards and let him work his magic from there.