Niemi records 2nd shutout over Preds in Nashville
After dropping Game 3 in Nashville, the Blackhawks were looking a bit uncertain about their first round matchup with the Predators. A 33 save shutout from your rookie goalie will do wonders for a team’s confidence, and Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp scored their first goals of the postseason to lift the Hawks to a 3-0 win before heading back to Chi-town.
Sharp’s first goal wasn’t pretty, as he fished the puck out of a crowd in front of the net on the powerplay midway through the first and stuffed it over the line, but his 2nd goal of the night was a thing of beauty. Sharp walked through three Nashville defenders and into the Predators’ zone before ripping a wrist shot over Rinne. Toews finally got his first goal of the playoffs in the 2nd period as well, slapping home a rebound from the slot, which is a good sign for the Hawks, who would love it if their star captain could get on a bit of an offensive roll. >
Of course, if Antti Niemi doesn’t let in any goals, it won’t matter who scores for Chicago. In both of Chicago’s wins in this series, Niemi has been perfect, and he’s been pretty solid in their losses, as well. Pekka Rinne has been great for Nashville, but there wasn’t much he could do about the goals in this one. He should probably have gotten a piece of Sharp’s 2nd tally, but the Predators’ lack of offense is a much bigger concern. Including the two goals scored at 5-on-5 in Game 4, Rinne has now given up just 4 goals at even strength in the series, while the Predators have struggled to score at just about every turn.
Nashville has failed to score on any of their powerplays this series, and their failure to score on a 5-on-3 in the first provided a huge momentum boost to the Hawks. Chicago also got a lift from the return of veteran defenseman Brian Campbell, who returned to the lineup for the first time since being injured in a collision with Alex Ovechkin near the end of the year. Campbell should be a valuable presence for the Blackhawks, especially with some big time games coming up over the rest of the series.
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