Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Predators in Game 1 tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage starts with Pregame Live at 6 p.m. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.
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Five Things to Watch:
1. The importance of Game 1.
According to Elias, teams that win Game 1 in a best-of-seven Stanley Cup playoffs series hold an all-time series record of 447-204 (68.7 percent). The Predators have never won a playoff series in franchise history when losing the first game (0-7) while the Blackhawks have gone on to win the series 11 of 12 times under Joel Quenneville when winning the first game. Getting off to a good start is crucial.
2. How will rookies handle playoff spotlight?
The Blackhawks will be starting four rookies in Game 1 with Ryan Hartman, John Hayden, Tanner Kero and Nick Schmaltz each getting their first taste of postseason action. These aren't just guys playing small roles; they've all had a big hand in the team's success this year. While some of them can lean on their big-game experience from college or at a different level, the Stanley Cup playoffs are clearly a different beast. It may take a little bit of time to shake the jitters and get comfortable.
3. Corey Crawford vs. Pekka Rinne.
Crawford and Rinne are both solid goaltenders, but there's a (big) difference between the two of them. When the playoffs roll around, one guy gets better and the other tends to go the other way. Crawford has a 2.37 goals against average and .918 save percentage for his career in the regular season, and a 2.26 GAA and .920 save percentage in the postseason. Rinne has a 2.38 GAA and .917 save percentage for his career in the regular season while his playoff numbers fall to 2.51 GAA and .912 save percentage. This could end up being the deciding factor in the series.
4. Health concerns in Nashville.
With Artem Anisimov (leg) cleared to play in Game 1, the Blackhawks are entering the playoffs as healthy as can be. The Predators, on the other hand, are dealing with a pair of injuries up front. Calle Jarnkrok (15 goals) and Colin Wilson (12) are two of the team's 12 players who have scored at least 10 goals this season, and both might be unavailable tonight due to lower-body injuries. We'll find out for sure at game time, but these would be tough losses. They'll need all hands on deck to take down the Blackhawks.
5. Beware of shorthanded goals.
The Predators are an average team in the penalty kill department with an 80.9 percent success rate, but they're dangerous. They led the league with 12 shorthanded goals, with Viktor Arvidsson scoring five of them. Those are absolutely deflating for teams on the power play, and huge momentum-boosters for teams on the scoring end of them. The Blackhawks must be cognizant of that fact.
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