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Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Predators in Game 1 tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Predators in Game 1 tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Predators in Game 1 tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage starts with Pregame Live at 6 p.m. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. The importance of Game 1.

According to Elias, teams that win Game 1 in a best-of-seven Stanley Cup playoffs series hold an all-time series record of 447-204 (68.7 percent). The Predators have never won a playoff series in franchise history when losing the first game (0-7) while the Blackhawks have gone on to win the series 11 of 12 times under Joel Quenneville when winning the first game. Getting off to a good start is crucial.

2. How will rookies handle playoff spotlight?

The Blackhawks will be starting four rookies in Game 1 with Ryan Hartman, John Hayden, Tanner Kero and Nick Schmaltz each getting their first taste of postseason action. These aren't just guys playing small roles; they've all had a big hand in the team's success this year. While some of them can lean on their big-game experience from college or at a different level, the Stanley Cup playoffs are clearly a different beast. It may take a little bit of time to shake the jitters and get comfortable.

3. Corey Crawford vs. Pekka Rinne.

Crawford and Rinne are both solid goaltenders, but there's a (big) difference between the two of them. When the playoffs roll around, one guy gets better and the other tends to go the other way. Crawford has a 2.37 goals against average and .918 save percentage for his career in the regular season, and a 2.26 GAA and .920 save percentage in the postseason. Rinne has a 2.38 GAA and .917 save percentage for his career in the regular season while his playoff numbers fall to 2.51 GAA and .912 save percentage. This could end up being the deciding factor in the series.

4. Health concerns in Nashville.

With Artem Anisimov (leg) cleared to play in Game 1, the Blackhawks are entering the playoffs as healthy as can be. The Predators, on the other hand, are dealing with a pair of injuries up front. Calle Jarnkrok (15 goals) and Colin Wilson (12) are two of the team's 12 players who have scored at least 10 goals this season, and both might be unavailable tonight due to lower-body injuries. We'll find out for sure at game time, but these would be tough losses. They'll need all hands on deck to take down the Blackhawks. 

5. Beware of shorthanded goals.

The Predators are an average team in the penalty kill department with an 80.9 percent success rate, but they're dangerous. They led the league with 12 shorthanded goals, with Viktor Arvidsson scoring five of them. Those are absolutely deflating for teams on the power play, and huge momentum-boosters for teams on the scoring end of them. The Blackhawks must be cognizant of that fact.

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Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 2-1 win over Penguins: Power play becoming a strength?

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 2-1 win over Penguins: Power play becoming a strength?

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks’ 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night:
 
1. That's how you start a game.

The Blackhawks haven't had the best of starts over the last couple weeks or so — aside from their recent four-goal first period against New Jersey. But they flew out of the gates in Pittsburgh.

Chicago recorded 27 shot attempts (11 on goal) in the opening frame compared to Pittsburgh's 13 attempts (nine on goal), and led in the even-strength scoring chances department 11-2.

Two of those chances were breakaways from Nick Schmaltz and Jonathan Toews, but both were denied by Matt Murray. The Blackhawks cashed in on one of two power play opportunities, however, and took a 1-0 lead into the second.

2. Power play strikes again.

Speaking of power plays, the Blackhawks came up empty on their first one of the game, but they were handed another one 44 seconds later at the midway mark of the first and capitalized when Gustav Forsling slipped one five-hole past Murray. 

It's the third consecutive game the Blackhawks have scored on the man advantage, something they hadn't done since Oct. 7-12 when they scored in four straight. It's also the second consecutive game the power play unit netted the game winner.

The Blackhawks are 5-for-13 (38.5 percent) on the power play in their last three games after going 5-for-53 (9.4 percent) in their previous 12. 

3. Should Blackhawks have pushed back immediately following Corey Crawford injury?

A scary moment occurred in the second period when Evgeni Malkin swiped Crawford in the mask while racing for a loose puck, forcing the Blackhawks netminder to exit before returning a few minutes later.

Malkin was given a two-minute minor penalty for goaltender interference, but should the Blackhawks have stood up for Crawford at the expense of getting tagged with a penalty themselves?

No question a power play opportunity with a chance to make it a two-goal game at that stage of the game — and against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions who hadn't lost in regulation at home this season going into the matchup —  is important, but the Blackhawks' lack of retaliation was a bit surpising. 

It wasn't a dirty play by Malkin by any means, but there's a principle involved when your goaltender gets hit like that. Those are the kinds of penalties you shouldn't mind taking, and at the very worst it would've been 4-on-4 hockey with one of Pittsburgh's best forwards in the box.

4. Artem Anisimov stays hot.

The goals keep coming for No. 15.

After the Penguins tied it up at 1-1 in the third period with a shorthanded goal, Anisimov scored 21 seconds later on the power play to put the Blackhawks back in front 2-1.

Anisimov now has nine goals in his last 10 games after scoring just one goal in his first 10 to start the season. He also has four game-winning goals on the season, all of which have come this month. Brandon Saad leads the NHL with five.

5. Alex DeBrincat extends point streak.

Lost in the shuffle was the Blackhawks' top rookie getting on the scoresheet once again.

With an assist on Forsling's power play goal in the first period, DeBrincat extended his point streak to four games. He has four goals and two assists in that span, and is averaging a point per game over his last nine (six goals and three assists).

DeBrincat also moved into a three-way tie with Richard Panik and Toews for second on the team with 13 points.

It's official: Blackhawks-Bruins to play at Notre Dame Stadium in 2019 Winter Classic

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USA TODAY

It's official: Blackhawks-Bruins to play at Notre Dame Stadium in 2019 Winter Classic

It’s official: The Blackhawks are headed back outdoors.

The NHL announced that the 2019 Winter Classic will be held at Notre Dame Stadium, featuring the Blackhawks and Boston Bruins on Jan. 1.

"The Blackhawks and Bruins, two of our most historic franchises, will be meeting outdoors for the first time at the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "Notre Dame Stadium, with its capacity approaching 80,000, will provide an ideal setting for this ground-breaking event and will host the largest live audience ever to witness a game by either of these teams."

"The Chicago Blackhawks are honored to be participating in this marquee event at an iconic venue like Notre Dame Stadium," Blackhawks President & CEO John McDonough said in a statement. "The University of Notre Dame has strong alumni roots in both Chicago and Boston, and, with an established rivalry between the Blackhawks and Bruins, fans will be treated to an exciting game in a unique atmosphere. We appreciate the invitation to the game and look forward to what will be a great day for both franchises and the National Hockey League."

It's the sixth time the Blackhawks will be playing outdoors, and their league-leading fourth Winter Classic. The Blackhawks are 1-4-0 in outdoor games, and are winless in three Winter Classic games.

Chicago's only outdoor win came against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2014 Stadium Series Classic, a 5-1 victory at Soldier Field.