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?"


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."

Blackhawks remember Dave Bolland for more than just '17 Seconds'

Blackhawks remember Dave Bolland for more than just '17 Seconds'

The Blackhawks are honoring one of their own on Friday, with Dave Bolland set to skate “One More Shift” with the organization. He will join the team on the ice during the anthem, and will be featured throughout the game commemorating his time in Chicago.

When you think of Bolland, the first thing that pops up into the minds of fans is his game-winning goal in Game 6 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins. Or, better known as the second goal of "17 Seconds."

But his former teammates remember him for more than that.

"He was awesome," Patrick Kane said. "He was one of those guys who played a third-line role for like his whole time here and just really did well with it. I remember the line with him, [Martin] Havlat and [Andrew] Ladd really took off in 2009 and obviously [Dustin] Byfuglien, him and [Kris] Versteeg were a good line in 2010. But just the way he played, he got underneath the other team's skin, especially their star players. Wasn't afraid to chirp, wasn't afraid to get into the mix, especially with his size and the way he was built.

"But yeah, some great moments, some big goals, a lot of big shorthanded goals, you can obviously remember his 17 seconds was unbelievable as well, that's a goal I'm sure he'll never forget. We'll never forget that celebration too, so it's awesome he's getting honored."

Bolland, who earned the nickname "The Rat," is perhaps best known for the role he played in the Blackhawks' playoff series battles with the Vancouver Canucks. His line frequently drew the defensive matchups against Daniel and Henrik Sedin, and he's the one player who really knew how to throw both twins off their game at the same time.

"I think he's kind of like Shawzy," Jonathan Toews said. "He's one of those guys that fans here in Chicago really like. Aside from scoring goals and the plays that he made over the years in the playoffs, he was one of those guys that you loved having on your team that other teams hated. He found ways to chip away at their best players and get them off their game. He was good at a lot of little things like that, so he was a big part of those winning teams."

Andrew Shaw was teammates with Bolland for only two seasons, but they won a Stanley Cup together and Bolland was one of the best and knowing his role and perfecting it.

"One of the best at his job," Shaw said. "He played that shutdown centerman. I always thought he had the shortest shifts. His shift lengths were so short just 'cause he would play so much against top guys that he'd want to be so well-rested while he was out there. ... He was skilled enough to chip in offensively as well.

"That's the type of player he was. He'd play against the top guys, he'd shut them down, he'd be that little rat himself, just try to get them off their game as well as outworking them."

Bolland spent seven of his 10 NHL seasons in Chicago, where he registered 168 points (70 goals, 98 assists) in 332 games. He was drafted by the Blackhawks in the second round (No. 32 overall) of the 2004 NHL Draft.

Friday will mark the first night honoring the 10-year anniversary of the 2010 Stanley Cup Championship, which ended a 49-year drought in franchise history. The first 10,000 fans on Friday will receive a Marian Hossa bobblehead.

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Robin Lehner to start in goal for Blackhawks vs. Blue Jackets

USA Today

Robin Lehner to start in goal for Blackhawks vs. Blue Jackets

Robin Lehner will start in goal for the Blackhawks when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night, coach Jeremy Colliton confirmed after morning skate. It will be his second start of the season.

In his season debut against the Winnipeg Jets, Lehner stopped 30 of 33 shots for a save percentage of .909 in a 3-2 overtime loss. He gave up a 5-on-5 goal, power-play goal and overtime goal at 3-on-3. Overall, he was solid.

"Everyone wants to play all the time," Colliton said of the dynamic between Corey Crawford and Lehner. "Whether it's a goalie, forward or D, they play better when they play more. That's just the standard answer. But we've had a little bit of a lighter schedule. We're trying to make ... we want both guys going because we're coming up on a stretch where we're playing a lot of games, so we're going to need them both."

Lehner is 5-3-0 with a 1.97 goals-against average, .945 save percentage and one shutout in eight career appearances against the Blue Jackets. 

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