Coach Joel Quenneville’s leash on inexperienced players is never shorter than when the Blackhawks struggle in the playoffs, so it was no surprise that Dennis Rasmussen replaced rookie John Hayden in Game 2 of the first-round series against the Predators on Saturday night.
Like Hayden, Rasmussen made his Stanley Cup playoff debut. The 26-year-old forward had four goals and eight points in 68 games in the regular season.
“He gives us a penalty killer, a faceoff guy,” Quenneville said, “some size, predictability on both sides of the puck. He’s been effective for us this year. We use him in a lot of ways.”
Rasmussen played in 57 of 59 games after entering the lineup in the first week of the regular season. But he played in just 11 of the final 21, in part because of the emergence of Hayden, who signed out of Yale in March. He was more excited than nervous about getting his first shot at Stanley Cup playoff hockey.
“I’ve played a lot of playoff games in Sweden — of course it’s not the same as here,” Rasmussen said. “I’m a little bit nervous, but at the same time I’m really excited.”
Rookie Vinnie Hinostroza was a late addition to the lineup, replacing veteran Jordin Tootoo on the fourth line with Rasmussen and Tanner Kero. It was Hino-stroza’s first Stanley Cup playoff appearance. Hinostroza, who was recalled from Rockford on
March 30, had six goals and 14 points in 49 games with the Hawks in the regular season.
The Predators were 20th in the NHL in blocked shots in the regular season, but they blocked 26 shots in Game 1. They averaged 11.6 blocked shots in five regular-season games against the Hawks. The only team to block more shots against the Hawks was the Sabres — 27 in a 4-3 loss on Jan. 5.
Shaking off the rust
Forward Artem Anisimov won 8 of 13 faceoffs (61.5 percent) in Game 1, already a big improvement from last year’s playoffs, when he was hampered by a wrist injury and won 12 of 43 faceoffs (27.9 percent) in the final three games against the Blues.
“First game was not bad, but I’m not happy about everything,” Anisimov said.”
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