Blackhawks

After standing tall in Game 1, Pekka Rinne could determine Blackhawks-Predators series

After standing tall in Game 1, Pekka Rinne could determine Blackhawks-Predators series

The Predators knew going into their first-round series that they needed every player on board to beat a perennial powerhouse like the Blackhawks, especially in their barn.

But one player might determine how far Nashville's spring will last, and if Game 1 was any indication, it could be a long one.

"I could say a lot," Predators center Ryan Johansen said of Pekka Rinne, who stopped all 29 shots he faced in a 1-0 win over the Blackhawks and became the first goaltender in franchise history to record a shutout in a road playoff game. "His play speaks for itself. He was our best player tonight. We're gonna need him to keep playing like that and we'll be successful."

Rinne has been really solid in the regular season throughout his career, but his numbers have dipped in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Entering Thursday, Rinne owned a career 2.38 goals against average and .917 save percentage in the regular season compared to a 2.51 goals against average and .912 save percentage in the postseason, including a .907 percentage in his previous 20 playoff games. 

He was trending in the wrong direction. But he was a big reason the Predators set the tone and stole an early victory in Chicago to quickly gain home-ice advantage.

"Now the series is on," Rinne said. "We've got to remember it's just a Game 1, but we wanted to get off to a good start and start the series the right way. It feels great to be up 1-0, but now they call it a series, right?"

Yep. 

It's not a series until the road team wins, and the Predators didn't waste any time in making it one.

Viktor Arvidsson, who had 31 goals during the regular season, halted the Blackhawks' strong start with a first-period goal at the 7:52 mark, which turned out to be a winner in the low-scoring bout. Predators coach Peter Laviolette summed up the game perfectly afterwards.

"In the first period we were really good, in the second they were really good, and the third period was a competitive period," he said. "That's pretty much it I guess. I thought our start was excellent. We did a lot of good things. I thought we stopped skating and working, and those two things, if you do it against Chicago it's going to be an ugly period."

Rinne was the reason the second period didn't turn into an even uglier one, staving off a Blackhawks team that registered 23 of their 29 shots in the final two periods.

"They did a good job of creating some space and moving the puck around, but they were mostly around the perimeter, and if they did get a chance, Peks was there to make a great save," Johansen said. "We're gonna keep trying to get better here as we go along. We'll look at some stuff tomorrow and get ready for the next one.

"We have a great group of hockey players here and we just have to be confident. We will use this win moving forward and I know that we can be successful.”

It was a crucial Game 1, specifically for Nashville, for a number of reasons.

The first, teams that win the opening game of a best-of-seven playoff series have gone on to win 68.7 percent (447-204) of the time, according to Elias. 

The second? The Predators have never won a playoff series when trailing 1-0, going 0-for-7 in franchise history. They've finished the job three of five times when taking a 1-0 series lead, and avoided being in an early hole against a Blackhawks team that has won 11 of 12 playoff series' under Joel Quenneville when winning Game 1. 

But it's just one game, and the series is far from over. The Predators know they have three more to go, but they're taking it one game at a time.

"I'm expecting it's going to be a long series, and we've got to keep our foot on the gas pedal and focus on Game 2," Rinne said. "But obviously it's a good position to be in on the road, to be up 1-0 with the next one on Saturday. That's going to be a big one."

If Rinne can duplicate his Game 1 performance, the Predators will stand a good chance at taking a commanding series lead — and perhaps making some noise in the Western Conference.

"If you are going to make a deep playoff run, everyone is going to have to be great," Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis said. "But your goalie is going to have to be your best player because there are going to be times where he is going to have to be the difference maker and tonight he was phenomenal."

Anton Forsberg to tribute Avicii with new mask

Anton Forsberg to tribute Avicii with new mask

Goaltender masks are often a place for artistic expression and tribute. Blackhawks goalie Anton Forsberg is adding his own touching tribute this season.

The 25-year-old Swedish goalie chose to tribute Avicii with an image of the musician on his goalie mask. Avicii, a fellow Swede, died by suicide in April.

David Gunnarsson, a professional mask artist, did the art for Forsberg's mask and posted it on Instagram.

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Today we have the honor to present Anton Forsberg´s new Blackhawks mask for the coming season😊🥅. Anton knew what he wanted on his new mask, he wanted to pay tribute to the Swedish DJ legend Tim Bergling❤️, a.k.a Avicii, who recently passed away. Just as Anton I am also a big admirer of his music and person and family🙏🏻❤️. It was a huge honor for me to paint and create this painting together with Anton in honor to Avicii´s family, they were also the first to see this painting❤️. The rest of the mask is painted in an old school and clean style, and on the other side of the mask Anton`s best friend pop up and makes him company in the net. @antonforsbeerg @nhlblackhawks @nhl @daveart

A post shared by David Gunnarsson (@daveart) on

According to Tracey Myers of NHL.com, Forsberg asked Avicii's parents for permission before going ahead with it.

"I've always listened to his music and have been a big fan of it," Forsberg said. "For me, there was no hesitation putting him on the mask."

Forsberg wore last season's mask in his preseason debut in Detroit on Thursday so he hasn't shown off the new gear just yet. That may need to wait for the regular season.

Hawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks training camp twist, Boqvist in?

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks training camp twist, Boqvist in?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle and Charlie Roumeliotis talk about Joel Quenneville leaving the door open for No. 8 overall pick Adam Boqvist to start the season with the Blackhawks. What are the chances he and Henri Jokiharju both make the team?

The guys also discuss Corey Crawford's status and what to make of his abbreviated on-ice session after six straight days of skating, Connor Murphy's injury that could sideline him until December, how the line of Brandon Saad, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane will work and the new 1-3-1 power play structure.

They also weigh in on which position battles they're looking forward to tracking during the back half of training camp.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below, and be sure to subscribe, rate us and write a review!