Western Conference Playoffs Round 1 vs. Nashville: Game 3

IMG_0490No anecdote about my beard, or having a beard. That’s what was missing from the last post. That could be an explanation for why the Blackhawks were outplayed for most of Game 2. I’ll be sure not to omit that very important introduction to any more of my posts, especially now that there looks like there is a beard to speak of, and the Blackhawks don’t play well when I don’t.

After the Blackhawks gave up their 5th goal to Nashville on Friday night, I went outside to have a cigarette and accept the fact that the Hawks probably weren’t going to win Game 2. As soon as I stepped outside, I found out the Goalie Controversy had begun. I could barely get out the words, “I don’t think Q will change,” as the 6th goal went in. At that moment, my gut feeling changed. I no longer felt like the Hawks could stick with a slumping goalie when the guy you have on the bench pitched a 42-save shutout coming on in relief in Game 1 in Scott Darling. But by the time I got home, my feeling was that the series is tied at 1-1 and it wasn’t time for Q to make a panic move like switching goalies. Crow struggled in the first two games of the playoffs last year, giving up 4 goals in each game to St. Louis, before getting back on track and having a great run through the rest of the playoffs. I didn’t think Q would bail on his Stanley Cup-winning goaltender so soon and would give him the dreaded “vote of confidence,” which is the sports equivalent of this.

But Q didn’t take long to pull the trigger and put in Darling, making his announcement yesterday afternoon. Hopefully Q isn’t making this decision too early, because if Darling has a stinker in his first playoff start, the chicken littles are going to be out in full force.

Other lineup changes have to be coming. As of this writing, none had been announced, but Q had hinted he will change things up. Hopefully Q does the first sensible thing and puts Antoine Vermette in for Joakim Nordstrom. I’ve already talked about that so no need for my reasons why. While the Undead Corpse of Michal Rozsival has been awful, Q might not make that switch because the Blackhawks don’t really have any other good options to replace him. David Rundblad, more like Rundbad. Kyle Cumiskey has spent almost the entire year playing in the minors. Between those two, Q doesn’t have anyone he trusts. My feeling is that one of the two of them couldn’t be any worse than Rozsival, who is more interested in eating brains than holding a puck in at his offensive blue line. Both can skate, Rundblad at least poses a threat on offense, and Cumiskey has experience playing under Q’s systems in seasons past. Please Q, try something.

If he doesn’t, I’d expect Q to put his top four defensemen back together, leaning heavily on Duncan Keith-Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson-Johnny Oduya. Greybeards Rozsival and Kimmo Timonen should play sparingly and only come in for offensive zone draws against the Predators’ bottom six forwards. Home ice advantage will be key today, since Q has the advantage of last change and can dictate some of the matchups for his lesser talented defensemen.

The first two games really weren’t as bad as the score looked Friday night. The Blackhawks were outplayed for stretches in the first two games but played pretty evenly with the Predators for most of it, hence the 1-1 series tie. The goalie switch is a good move because you know the meatballs would not have been satisfied with less than a 6-0 shutout win otherwise. Let’s try to forget about that terrible 3rd period the other night and get some positive mojo happening today. The Preds will be playing without their best player, Shea Weber, for at least the next two games. Hopefully the Hawks can take advantage.

This post came early today because I’m going to try on suits at noon. Hopefully I can get that done and make the drive from 161st and LaGrange to Union and Western by 2 o’clock. Maybe they pause it and wait for me at the bar. Probably not, but they better have the nachos warm by the time I get there. LET’S GO HAWKS!!!

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