Ramblings: Backs to the Wall Blackhawks (Apr 16)

Ian Gooding

2017-04-16

Backs to the wall Blackhawks, Pietrangelo, Kassian, plus more

As a hockey fan with no specific rooting interest in these playoffs, here are the three series than I was the most interested in to start the playoffs:

Columbus/Pittsburgh: Can the Pens get past the Jackets, let alone repeat as Stanley Cup champions? It’s unfair to both of these teams (second and fourth overall, respectively) that they have to face each other in the first round.

Edmonton/San Jose: Are these Oilers for real? Will the veterans on the Sharks be able to stop Connor McDavid?

Toronto/Washington: On paper, a short series for the Leafs against the President’s Trophy winners. But hey, it’s the Leafs, and they have those exciting young players.

This was nothing against any of the other series, which are providing some great hockey. But I guess I was just a little more curious about these ones. But as all these series evolve, there are some interesting twists and turns. Let’s start with what should be the biggest surprise of the playoffs so far, which is not one of the three I listed above.

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If you loaded up on Blackhawks in your playoff pool or picked them as your Cup winner, these playoffs haven’t gone according to plan for you (at least so far). Two games, no goals. And from what I have watched of this series, it doesn’t seem as though the Hawks are being outplayed by a wide margin. They just ran into a hot goalie in Pekka Rinne, who stole Game 1, then didn’t make any mistakes in Game 2 either.

Although the Blackhawks should be concerned heading into Game 3 in Nashville, they shouldn’t panic either. Remember that this core group of players nearly came back from a 3-0 deficit against Vancouver in 2011. After Game 3 in that series, Jonathan Toews said something to the effect of, “We have to expose them for who they are.” This is a team that has three Stanley Cups in its trophy case, so they can be as mentally tough as any team. I think the Hawks come back and win Game 3 and possibly even Game 4.

But let’s give the Preds credit where credit is due for a total team effort. If you include Rinne’s two assists (a nice bonus in a fantasy league or two), 12 Predators had at least a point in this game. Rinne of course has a two-game shutout streak. Ryan Johansen now has four points in two playoff games. If you believe in the Predators in playoff pools, Johansen is a solid sleeper with 18 points in 22 games.

One red flag of the “boiling the frog slowly” variety for the Blackhawks might be in net. This would also be something for you to remember in fantasy leagues. Crawford’s goals-against average has increased for the fourth consecutive season (from 1.94 in 2013-14 to 2.55 in 2016-17). In other words, the 32-year-old is not a goalie you should be reaching for in drafts next season. Late in the season, I was offered a package deal that involved his Crawford for my Frederik Andersen. This owner must have understood that these two go