On Monday night, the Blackhawks ended a hard-fought six-game series against division rival Nashville with a wild 5-3 victory. After seven goals were scored on only 23 shots in a back-and-forth first period, the game settled into a chess match of penalties and matchups.
The Blackhawks will take a great deal away from this series that, despite the close play, should build their confidence. They owned the penalty kill, destroying Nashville throughout the six games. The Predators only converted one man-advantage in 27 chances, including just one for five on Monday evening. In the third period of Monday night’s game, after Nashville successfully killed ten penalty minutes in the second, the Hawks killed almost six consecutive minutes of penalties.
The Blackhawks offense, which was a bit of a concern early in the series, has jumped to life since Brian Campbell returned to the lineup as well. In the three games that Campbell played in the series, the Hawks outscored Nashville 13-8; in the first three games of the series, of which the Predators won two, the Preds outscored the Hawks 8-4 (including being shutout in Game Two).
Brent Sopel played an incredible series, risking every part of his anatomy for the team. He was credited with 21 blocked shots in the series and boasted more than 10 fresh stiches in the locker room from a high stick he took in the second period on Monday night.
Niklas Hjalmarsson also played very well on the blue line for the Blackhawks. Sopel and Hjalmarsson were the rocks on the blue line on most of the penalty killing units the Hawks employed in the series, and will figure to play a prominent role in stopping the high-octane offense of the Vancouver Canucks in the next round.
Now, the Blackhawks will look forward to a series against the same Canucks team that was eliminated by the Blackhawks last year in the conference semifinals.