1. Win the Special Teams battle.
It’s been said before, but it bears worth repeating – win your special teams and you normally end up winning the game. The margin between winning and losing in the postseason is very small. You try to gain any edge you can, whether it’s on face offs, line changes and especially on your special teams. The Blackhawks power play didn’t look particularly good the last 25 games of the year. Nor did the penalty kill for that matter. Back on Feb. 15th, the 57th game of the year, the Hawks had the No. 1 rated penalty kill and the No. 11 rated power play. They finished 10th and 20th respectively after game 82. Each slid about 10 spots. They have the talent, they just need the hard work and resolve to get the special teams figured out.
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2. Keep an eye on Nashville’s D.
The Nashville Predators back end had a spectacular season. The defensemen on this team combined for 61 goals. By comparison, Chicago’s defensemen combined for 27. Now that’s not a knock on the Hawks, but it goes to show you how offensive-minded the Predators D-men are. They all have big shots and they all like to join the rush. Make sure you are taking away shooting lanes in your end, especially when Shea Weber is out there. It’s never too late to come back on these guys and try to pin them against the boards by finishing checks in their own end.
3. Get to Rinne.
Pekka Rinne was having a Vezina type season up until Feb. 19th and then the bottom fell out. He gave up five goals to the New York Islanders and finished the season with just 7 wins and 14 losses from that date after going 34-7-2 to that point. His confidence was shaken and he finished the season with six straight losses and an .857 save percentage in those six games. Rinne likes to go down, so look to go high, especially on his glove side. He tends to overslide too, sometimes losing his balance in the process. Wrap-arounds from behind the net are a good option.
After being on the receiving end of some racist taunts while he was in the penalty box during Saturday's game against the Blackhawks, Capitals winger Devante Smith-Pelly spoke publicly about the incident.
Smith-Pelly, a 25-year-old Canadian, reacted to the fans while he was in the box, going up to them from the other side of the glass. He addressed questions from the media about the incident on Sunday.
"I just heard some chanting, some, I guess, racially charged chanting," Smith-Pelly said. "You can tell by my reaction that I got pretty upset.
"What was said this time around crossed the line."
The Capitals released a statement about the incident:
"The Washington Capitals are extremely disappointed by the intolerant behavior extended toward Devante Smith-Pelly by a select group of fans during Saturday night's game against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center. The Capitals organization strives to be inclusive and has zero tolerance concerning any form of racism. Such behavior is unacceptable and has no place in hockey or society. As such, it is crucial to confront such appalling conduct, and the Capitals extend their appreciation to the Blackhawks organization and United Center security for swiftly removing the fans from the game."
The Blackhawks released a statement after the game with a similar tone.
Smith-Pelly said this has happened previously in his career.
"It's sad that in 2018 we're still talking about the same thing over and over," Smith-Pelly said. "It's sad that athletes like myself 30, 40 years ago were standing in the same spot saying the same thing. You'd think there'd be some sort of change or progression, but we're still working towards it I guess and we're going to keep working towards it."
The Capitals released the full interview.
Four fans at the United Center were thrown out of Saturday's Blackhawks game for taunting Washington Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly with racist remarks.
Midway through the third period, Smith-Pelly, who is black, was in the penalty box when fans shouted "basketball, basketball, basketball" at him, the Washington Post reported.
Here is a GIF of Smith-Pelly's interaction with the fans:
After the game, the Blackhawks released this statement:
Capitals head coach Barry Trotz also had this to say about the incident: