Mar 14, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Saad (20) skates past Nashville Predators center Nick Spaling (13) during the third period at the United Center. Nashville won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Last game until the playoffs start!
The Chicago Blackhawks are set to play their 82nd and final game, of the NHL regular season, tonight, against the Nashville Predators.
Let’s take a look at how these teams matchup.
[table id=33 /]
The Blackhawks definitely have the advantage, in this one, for all that it means. It’s hard to put a finger on these late season games, with literally nothing on the line. The Hawks employ a more high-powered offense, and a stingier defense, when it comes to 5-on-5 play. Traditionally, Nashville has one of the stingiest defensive games, in the NHL, but that’s not the case, this season, which explains why they are on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture. The Predators do have a solid Power Play unit, and have been excellent, in the faceoff dot, but they are below average every where else.
The Predators are trying to go out with a bang, in what has been a disappointing season. Defenseman, Shea Weber will end the season as the team’s leading scorer, for the 2nd straight season. Patric Hornqvist is ending the season, on a high-note, as he has 15 points, in his last 9 games. Craig Smith figures to be one of the Preds’ main offensive threats, for years to come, as he has had a very good sophomore season, in the NHL. Speaking of the future, Seth Jones, improved mightily, as the season went on, and he will likely develop into an elite defenseman, in the NHL, making Nashville a possible contender, next season.
Pekka Rinne will likely be in net, tonight, for the Predators. Rinne has had a rough year. First he was injured, and missed most of the season, and when on the ice, he put up a not so good, .906 Save Percentage. Rinne is a very good goaltender, though, and he owns a .921 Save Percentage, against the Hawks.
The Hawks just need to get through tonight. Winning or losing doesn’t matter. All they need to do is stay healthy and out of trouble. Winning is still more pleasant to watch, though.
Last night, the Hawks were shutout 4-0, by the Washington Capitals. In that game, head coach Joel Quenneville wisely scratched Duncan Keith, from the lineup, last night, in favor of resting up, for the playoffs. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to do so again, tonight. That doesn’t just go for Keith, either. It would be nice to see guys like Niklas Hjalmarsson, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, and Brent Seabrook to see some rest, tonight. This is no disrespect to the Nashville Predators, but all we should be caring about, right now, is the playoffs, and making another Cup run. The injuries to Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane could possibly end up being blessings in disguise, as they are both expected to be 100% and fully rested, for the start of the playoffs. Let’s be smart and get these guys some rest. They’ve earned it, and they will need it, as the NHL playoffs are a brutal grind, to the finish.
In net, will be Antti Raanta, for the Hawks. Raanta will be in to give Corey Crawford a bit of rest, before the post-season starts. Raanta has had an up and down debut season, in North America. This season, in the NHL, he has put up a poor Save Percentage, of .901, in 24 games played.
Let’s get this one over with, and onto the playoffs. It’s what we’ve all been waiting for, and it’s right in front of us. The Predators would love nothing more than to steal a win, from the Hawks, tonight, and they may very well do so. It likely won’t be long before these two teams are battling for playoffs contention, again.