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Blackhawks seeking offense, tweak lines for Game 3

22 April 2017

The Predators are the fifth team in National Hockey League history to start a postseason with back-to-back road shutouts, the first since Toronto in 2001, according to Elias Sports.

The top scorers have come through for the Predators - Viktor Arvidsson's early goal didn't seem a backbreaker in Game 1, but it stood as the game-winner - and it seems only a matter of time before the always-dangerous Filip Forsberg finds a spark. The Blackhawks were outshot 30-29, outhit 48-31 and lost the majority of their faceoffs.

Another way the Hawks could combat the blocks is to attempt shot fakes.

Ottawa scored twice in a span of 2:20 to tie the game.

This time, they held on - thanks to a super performance by Rinne. Soon afterwards, Ryan Ellis blasted a shot home from the point to give the Preds a 1-0 lead. Jonathan Toews hasn't scored a goal since Game 4 of the 2015 Stanley Cup final and has managed just five shots in the series. The Predators did not have a 1-0 victory during the regular season.

The Blackhawks talked before Game 2 about making adjustments, such as crowding Rinne and playing with more of an edge. That will serve as added motivation for them in this series.

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The cacophony only grew louder, angrier, and more intense by the end of a pathetic 5-0 defeat to the Predators for the players wearing red sweaters with Indian heads on the front that kept impersonating the Hawks. The first is pretty basic: blocking shots leave players open to injury. But don't read too much into that.

The game is set for 8:30 p.m. CT with a national broadcast on CNBC and a local broadcast on CSN Chicago. Facing the lowest seed in the Nashville Predators, however, the Blackhawks have run into their greatest test this season.

There's a new favorite to win the Stanley Cup, according to Sports Interaction. They exposed Chicago's defense and chased Corey Crawford from the series. The Predators lead the series, 2-0, and will put the Blackhawks on the ropes with another victory.

From the Blackhawks, I would expect to see more urgency in their game. The Predators are using their toughness to force things to the outside and above the goal line, and it's totally stifling the Blackhawks' offense. Blackhawks defensemen shot 22 times and 13 were blocked.

"Pekks is elite", said defenseman Ryan Ellis, who was one of five Predators to score in the rout. Additionally, an extra option or two on the rush should help the Blackhawks overcome the neutral zone disruption employed by their opponents.

More importantly, though, Nashville's ability to control puck possession against Chicago is finally paying off.

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I like that the Predators got the only goal they needed from their top line of Viktor Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen, who earned an assist on Arvidsson's victor.

The biggest question is whether luck will continue to remain on Nashville's side. The first was netted by Harry Zolniercyck and assisted by Mattias Ekholm and Pekka Rinne, giving the goalkeeper his first playoff assist in his career.

Nashville is headed home, where they have, historically, been significantly better than on the road. "You need to jumble it around and you need to find something different, and get a different look somewhere".

Toews hasn't scored in his last 10 playoff games. Nashville has scored first in each of the first two games in the series.

That said, none of this matters when the puck drops for game three.

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Blackhawks seeking offense, tweak lines for Game 3