Predators Show Depth, Tenacity With 2-0 Lead Vs. Blackhawks

Posted at 3:53 PM, Apr 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-16 17:54:12-04

We expected game two to get off to a quick start marked by a torrid pace, physical checking and probably an early goal. We just didn't expect that the desperate hockey would come from the Predators.

Not satisfied after taking game one in Chicago, the Preds jumped on the Blackhawks from the start in game two. Ryan Ellis's goal just over 3:00 in gave them a 1-0 lead and they never looked back on the way to a 5-0 rout that gives them a 2-0 series lead.

"We wanted to come out strong," Predators captain Mike Fisher said. "We knew that they'd come out flying around, but we got an early one and played a good game."

After grinding out a 1-0 win in game one, Nashville wanted to show it's true identity in game two, pushing the puck into the offensive zone with pace and using an aggressive forecheck to once again slow down the high-powered Hawks.

The Predators executed the gameplan flawlessly, building the lead to 3-0 in the second period and continuing to apply the pressure even into the third period. The Preds just kept coming in waves, frustrating the heavily favored Hawks.

Nashville's top line of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson have led the way with six points (2 G, 4 A) in two games while the Blackhawks continue to shuffle guys in with Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik on their top line trying to find a combination that will work.

"We've got a lot of players that can make plays out there on the ice," Johansen said. "We've got confidence in our group and we're going to keep needing that moving forward."

But the most impressive part of Saturday's beatdown was the depth of the Nashville lines. The Predators consistently sent four lines over the boards while Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville shortened his bench to three lines for much of the action.

And the Preds' lines were productive. All four lines produced goals, including the first playoff goals in the careers of Ellis, Harry Zolnierczyk, Colton Sissons and Kevin Fiala.

"It's nice when you can roll four lines and be comfortable against whoever they put out there," Zolnierczyk said. "Obviously, the playoffs are a long haul and having four lines that can play will be important."

That depth has been a major advantage for Nashville through the first two games of the postseason and will only become more important as this series goes longer. Though, after Saturday night, one may actually wonder if the Blackhawks will just be able to turn on the switch in Nashville for games three and four and make this a series.

The Predators, however, know there's a long ways to go. The Blackhawks are too good and too experienced to just lay down.

"We played a pretty good game," Predators center Ryan Johansen said. "But we can get better. We need to watch some video and get ready for the next game."

If we learned anything in game two, it's that the Preds will be ready for game three, coming over the boards four lines deep over and over again.

We'll see if the Blackhawks can finally match them.