‘Will over skill’ — Net-front traffic key for Hawks in Game 2

SHARE ‘Will over skill’ — Net-front traffic key for Hawks in Game 2

Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne made 29 saves in a 1-0 shutout of the Blackhawks in Game 1 of the first-round series on Thursday night at the United Center. (David Banks/AP)

Getting traffic in front of the goalie is harder than it looks, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Friday. But it’s not rocket science, either.

‘‘Will over skill,’’ winger Jordin Tootoo said. ‘‘Playoff hockey is all about will, being mentally ready.’’

After being shut out by Pekka Rinne in a 1-0 loss Thursday to the Nashville Predators in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series, the Hawks will have to show some mental and physical toughness to make life a little tougher for Rinne in Game 2 on Saturday.

‘‘We didn’t really make it hard on him,’’ winger Ryan Hartman said. ‘‘It probably wasn’t the hardest shutout that he had in his life; it was pretty easy for him. We need to get more pucks to the net and get in front of his eyes and make it harder for him to see pucks coming at him.’’

There was little doubt the lack of net-front traffic irked Quenneville as much as any facet of the Game 1 loss. He blamed the Hawks more than he credited Rinne for the shutout, and the Hawks worked on producing ‘‘greasy’’ goals at practice Friday.

‘‘Going into every game, we always talk about [getting] to the net,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘The goalies are too good. They’re too big. If they see the puck, they’re going to stop it.

‘‘Just trying to get a little more distraction in that area. We have to get there in order to make it tough on them and at least try to get second opportunities. With no traffic, you get no rebounds. So we’ve got to be harder to play against in that area.’’

Last season against the St. Louis Blues, six of the Hawks’ first seven goals against a goalie came with Andrew Shaw in front of the net — including three by Shaw himself. The Hawks know what to do; they just have to do it.

‘‘I don’t think it’s tough to get the message across,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘They make it tough to get there, and that’s part of getting to that hard area. It takes will and willpower. It’s easier said than done. But they all know if they want to score goals in this league, that’s where the rewards are.’’

Fourth line MIA

Like every playoff team, the Hawks hope to establish four consistent lines. But their fourth line was invisible in Game 1, with only eight shifts. Rookie John Hayden (5:39) and Tootoo (5:29) had minimal ice time. Center Tanner Kero (13:15) was bumped up to the top line in the second period.

Quenneville said the early deficit played a role, with Patrick Kane double-shifting once the Hawks fell behind 1-0. But he still shook things up in practice, with Dennis Rasmussen replacing Hayden alongside Kero and Tootoo.

By the numbers

The Hawks have gone 6-3 in Game 2 of a playoff series after losing Game 1 under Quenneville (4-3 on the road and 2-0 at home).

The last time they lost a series opener at home — in 2010 against the Vancouver Canucks — they fell behind 2-0 in the first 5:02 of Game 2 before rallying for a 4-2 victory.

Follow me on Twitter @MarkPotash.

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com


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