Bridgestone Arena, right down the street from the honky tonks and country music bands of Nashville, also the perfect setting for Stanley Cup Playoff hockey. The Nashville Predators made history Thursday night. They were able to sweep the Chicago Blackhawks and advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Predators’ franchise had never swept a team in the NHL Playoffs before Thursday night, let alone a championship caliber team and fierce rival in the Chicago Blackhawks. The Predators’ four straight wins ended with a convincing 4-1 victory in Nashville.
Less than a minute into the game Nashville’s Kevin Fiala drew a crucial penalty on Duncan Keith. Although the Preds didn’t score on the power play, it started a wave of momentum that the Preds would capitalize on. Much of the first period was dominated by Nashville, Chicago seldom got a chance on goal during the 1st frame of action. Late in the first period the Predators were able to draw another penalty against Chicago’s Richard Panik. The Preds were able to get some great shots on goal and continue to wear down Chicago goalie Corey Crawford, despite not scoring during the power play. At the end of 1, the Predators controlled the large majority of possession time, and clearly headed to the locker room with the momentum on their side. Much like the game three first period, the Nashville Predators home-crowd lifted the team to a solid, but scoreless, first period. Both goaltenders, Chicago’s Corey Crawford, and Nashville’s Pekka Rinne, played very well in the first period. Both goalies were the main contributors to neither team finding the back of the net.
The start of the second period proved to be back-and-forth, covering all 200 feet of the ice. The second period also proved to be more defensive from both sides. With about 10 minutes left in the second, the Predators made a big push towards the goal, getting a lot of chances in the offensive zone. Blackhawks’ Corey Crawford still stood strong. The offensive chances ignited the Bridgestone Arena crowd. Roman Josi finally got the scoring going with a rifle of a slapshot that slipped right through Corey Crawford’s legs. With the Preds up 1-0 the momentum proved to be totally in favor of the hometown Predators. Chicago picked it up in the 2nd period with their offensive attack, but the Predators’ defense, led by P.K. Subban, stood strong in the defensive end.
The third period proved to be a victory lap of sorts for the Predators, Chicago threw absolutely everything at Pekka Rinne and the goal, yet they were stopped every time. Colton Sissons added to Nashville’s lead on a breakaway surge. Sissons fired in a shot that ricocheted off of Corey Crawford into goal. Preds’ Pekka Rinne finished off the Blackhawks with some big saves down the stretch. Roman Josi added to the celebration level in Nashville by tapping in a 2-on-1 breakaway pass. Chicago climbed back in the game for a moment with about 5 minutes remaining. Jonathan Toews was able to score a power play goal and give the Blackhawks a lone goal, with the score 3-1. Chicago pulled their goalie with about 2-and-a-half minutes left, Victor Arviddson found the open ice and put the puck in the back of the net. His goal finally sealed the win for the Predators, and the huge first-round win.
This 4-0 series win for Nashville over Chicago may just be the biggest win for the Predators in their history. With the win, the Predators will await either the St. Louis Blues or the Minnesota Wild in the 2nd round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. St. Louis currently leads Minnesota 3-1 in the series. The Blues and Wild next game is Saturday at 2:00 P.M. EST.