By Brad Vandenberk
Game 82 is upon us, finally! Not that this season has been a bad one, but after mailing it in against the Capitals last night, it’s hard to get excited for this game. As I stated last night, Chicago can’t move up from their current third seeded position.
Even though most fans and players are looking toward the post season the Hawks are looking to avenge some pride with the season series owned by the Preds 3-1. It’s amazing to think – would the Preds be making the playoffs if Pekka Rinne played the entire season? Several players may be playing their final game tonight in the likes of Jeremy Morin and Joakim Nordstrom. Once Toews and Kane return those two seem to be the odd men out. It does prove the depth that Chicago does have available if needed to be called upon. Another situation that will be solved on Sunday evening is who is the Hawks first round opponent? After both Avalanche and Blues taking a loss last night, it seems that it will come down to the final day of the NHL. The Avs finish their season against the Ducks while the Blues have an afternoon affair against the Redwings at home.
Antti Raanta started, which could possibly be his last game of the season. Mighty Rinne was at the home end for the Preds. As we witnessed last night, the Duncan Keith did not dress for his 2nd consecutive game. Niklas Hjalmarsson, Marcus Kruger and Michal Handzus also rested for this game. Matt Carey and Dave Rundblad were their replacements. Brent Seabrook, Patrick Sharp, Nick Leddy and Brandon Bollig, were the only Hawks to play all 82 games this year.
This game started off with a lot more intensity then the previous night. Hawks looked like they had something to prove trying to regain momentum. Just 4:11 into the opening period, Brandon Saad carries the puck over the blue line and leaves it for Ben Smith who rifles one over Rinne 1-0. Marian Hossa, Andrew Shaw and Sharp played with the puck in the Preds zone for about a minute forcing the Preds to ice the puck and use their timeout just 7 minutes in. Bryan Bickell coming into playoff form just nicely as he makes a strong move to the net with the puck. Just as the period is about to pass the half way point, Sharp accidentally bumps referee Tim Peel which forced the play to stop with the veteran needing help to his feet. He remained in the game. Hossa then wows the majority Hawks crowd. He steels a puck and heads over the Preds line. He sees that forward Gabriel Bourque is playing D and uses his speed to beat him outside, wrapping the puck around the net, banking it off Rinne for his 30th of the year 2-0. Just 14 seconds after Hossa’s razzle dazzle, Craig Smith snipes one past Raanta from the faceoff dot 2-1. The period ends with the Hawks leading in shots 7-4.
As the second period begins, Hossa is not playing with his regular line. That’s right; he too now will sit back with his night completed, especially after scoring his 30th. The Hawks get their first power play of the game when Ryan Ellis gets called for tripping. Shaw battles hard with Shea Weber in front of the net and even Bickell gets an opportunity to score whiffing on a Seabrook pass. Ellis gets the last laugh after he is spotted wide open in front of the net and ties it up at 2. Nashville is next up to receive their first man advantage of the game as Michael Rozsival heads to the box for cross checking. Raanta stands strong and makes a save on Weber. Morin is just a beast. He chips a puck past Seth Jones beating the rookie defensemen to a loose puck. Jones has no other option but to force the trip giving the Hawks another power play. The Preds break in short handed on a 3 on 1 with Raanta making a great save on Paul Gaustad not allowing a rebound. Matt Carey makes his presence felt when he finds the back of the net for his first of his NHL career. Bickell found the rookie out front and Carey beats a screened Rinne. Rundblad retrieved the puck for the young lad. His smile could be seen from space. Kris Versteeg gets called for cross checking and Raanta makes some key saves to keep the Hawks up 1. Near the end of the period, Seabrook blocks a shot and labors to the bench. He did stay on the bench and remained in the game. The Preds outshoot the Hawks 13-6 for a total of 17-13 after 40 minutes.
Just when you check your betting slip and see that you have the under on a 5.5 the third period begins. 4:03 into the period, Mike Fisher forces a shot , Raanta gives out a huge rebound to Matt Cullen who ties it up at 3. Raanta is not happy smashing his goal stick on the ice in disgust. Nashville finally gets their first lead of the game. Colin Wilson cashes in on a Weber rebound and just like that it’s a 4-3 game. 55 seconds later Morin ties the game back up at 4. He throws a puck on net and Roman Josi puts into his own net. The Preds get another power play on a good old Too Many Men penalty. Rozsival makes a great save sweeping a puck off the goal line. Craig Smith continues his strong night finding an open Gaustad in front of the net and the Preds have the lead once again 5-4. The Hawks pull Raanta with 1:45 remaining in the season. Shaw grabs a puck before it leaves the zone and puts a shot on net, it trickles past Rinne tying the game again at 5. The goals weren’t done there. 58 ticks left on the clock and Patric Hornqvist tips a Cullen shot over Raanta giving the Preds a 6-5 lead. Raanta heads to the bench again and Weber sends a shot into the open net making the final 7-5.
Sharp Shaw Hossa Oduya Rozsival
Versteeg Smith Saad Brookbank Seabrook
Bickell Regin Morin Leddy Rundblad
Nordstrom Carey Bollig
-Hawks get outshot 33-25.
-Hawks go 0/2 on the power play with the Preds going 0/3.
-Rozsival just edged out Oduya for TOI with 23:30, 23:25 respectively.
-Shaw went 6/17 in the faceoff dot, Smith 5/13, Regin 9/13, Carey 3/12.
-Saad (2A) and Shaw (1G, 1A) led the team with 2 points.
-Nashville wins season series 4-1.
-Now its score board watching on Sunday to see who the Hawks will face in the first round.