Apr 19, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne (35) watches Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya (27) move the puck during the third period at the United Center. The Blackhawks beat the Predators 5-4 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
Last time, in Music City, the Nashville Predators certainly did “Keep the Red Out”. Well, at least where it matters. While many Chicago Blackhawks fans still found a way into Bridgestone Arena, all they saw was the red, kept out of the win column, as the Predators blew out the Blackhawks, by a score of 7-2. The Blackhawks will be looking for revenge, for being handed such an embarrassing loss, in front of their traveling fans.
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The Blackhawks have a surprisingly slight advantage in the statistical matchup. Judging by the results, the Hawks would have figured to have more of an edge, but that’s not the case. The Predators have played pretty solid hockey, this season. The Blackhawks have a significant edge, in Goals for, as they have the NHL’s most explosive offense, while the Predators’ have struggled scoring goals, at least when it comes to even strength play. Nashville features some of the best special teams play, in the entire NHL. Top-10 Power Play, and top-10 Penalty Kill units, might give the Preds a possible key to victory, over the Blackhawks, who have the 2nd to worst Penalty Kill, in the NHL. Nashville has the 2nd best Faceoff Percentage, in the NHL, but only the 20th best Corsi For Percentage, which means that while they are able to initially control the puck, they are either rarely able to do anything productive with it, and/or they consistently turn the puck over. The Blackhawks are an excellent takeaway team, and if the Predators can’t be productive with the puck, before the Blackhawks are able to take it away, it could be long night, for the Predators.
While the Predators are very solid in several areas, they have struggled in a few others, and have very little positive results to show for their successes. Nashville is currently in 6th place, in the Central Division. Although, their record is good enough to be in the playoff picture, in the Metropolitan Division, it is sub par, in the Central. The are 5-4-1, in their last 10 games, and winners of their last 3 games. David Legwand is the only Predator that is over the 20 points mark, so far, this season. While, they have struggled offensively, they are solid at preventing opposing teams’ chances, and take advantage of their Power Play opportunities. Shea Weber’s booming slapshot, from the blueline, is one of Nasheville’s best weapons, especially on the Power Play. Rookie, Seth Jones has struggled a bit, in his debut season, but he is one to watch, as he is widely considered a future star, puck moving defenseman, in the NHL.
The Blackhawks shook off the brutal loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, by defeating fellow Western Conference elites, the Los Angeles Kings. The Hawks are leading the Central Division, and are 6-3-1, in their last 10 games. They will receive a boost, tonight, with the return of power forward, Bryan Bickell, returning from injury. The Hawks tend to allow their fair share+ amount of goals, but they are outscoring the rest of the league by a wide margin. Several players are having career years, such as Patrick Kane, who will be looking to increase his points streak to 9 games, tonight. Jonathan Toews continues to put up more than solid offesnive points, while he continues his elite, all-around style of play. Patrick Sharp is on pace to set a new career high, in points scored, this season, and Duncan Keith is arguable outperforming his 2009-2010 season, in which he won the Norris Trophy.
The Blackhawks are a leading the league’s most competitive division, while the Predators are near the bottom of the same division, but have played decently. It would do wonders, for Nashville, if they were able to keep start off 2-0, in their first 2 games, against the Hawks, this season. Meanwhile the Hawks likely haven’t forgotten what happened the last time they visited Nashville, thus motivating them to make a statement, to the Predators, about who is in charge, of the Central Division. It should be a great game!