Blackhawks News

Game Preview: Central Division Lead On the Line as Chicago Blackhawks Faceoff with Nashville Predators

By Brian Kinkade

Oct 23, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne (35) blocks a shot attempt by Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) during the second period at Bridgestone Arena. Chicago Blackhawksredators beat the Blackhawks 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

After last night’s nail-biting victory over the Montreal Canadiens, the Chicago Blackhawks head south to take on the current leaders of the Central Division, the Nashville Predators.  

Nashville is currently in a tie with the St. Louis Blues for 1st place in the Central with 36 points, on the season.  The Blackhawks are in 3rd with 35 points on the season.  A win tonight, in regulation would give the Hawks sole possession of 1st place, a win in overtime would put them in a tie with the Predators, and anything else would keep them out of 1st place.  This a big matchup, at this point in the season.

This is the 3rd game of the 5-game season series between the Hawks and Preds.  Both teams have taken one game against each other, so far.  You can catch tonight’s game on CSN-Chicago and you can hear it on WGN 720 AM.

Here’s a statistical breakdown of the Hawks and Predators.

[table id=93 /]

Clearly the Hawks have the advantage in this one.  Offensively, the Hawks are one of the best teams in the league, but they will be matched up against Nashville’s tied for the best defensive game, in the league.  However, that tie is with the Hawks, for best defensive team in the league, but Nashville is merely average offensively.

The special teams advantage goes to the Hawks, as they currently have a roughly average Power Play that will be up against the Predators’ below-average Penalty Killing.  The Preds’ Power Play has been one of the worst in the league and will have to somehow find a way to score against the Hawks’ best in the league Penalty Kill.

The puck possession matchup is an interesting one, but one that also yields an advantage to the Hawks.  In the faceoff circle, the Hawks are one of the better teams, while Nashville is one of the worst teams in the league.  When it comes to positive puck possession, both the Hawks and the Preds are elite in the NHL.  This is interesting, because Nashville loses the majority of it’s faceoffs, which means they find alternative ways to get the puck and drive play.  The Hawks will have to be careful not to turn the puck over, because stealing the puck appears to be what drives the Predators’ game.

As mentioned earlier, the Predators are leading the Central Division, with a record of 17-6-2, which is good for 36 points.  Nashville is lead by dynamic young star, Filip Forsbergwho has 25 points in 25 games.  Mike Ribeiro is currently riding a 3-game goal streak, and has 5 points in his last 3 games.  James Neal broke his pointless drought, Thursday, with an assist against the St. Louis Blues.  When it comes to the Predators, it’s impossible not to mention defenseman, Shea Weberand his booming slapshot.

In net for the Preds will likely be Pekka Rinne.  Rinne has been fantastic, this season, with a .931 Save Percentage, in 22 games played.

The Hawks, as previously mentioned are sitting in 3rd place, in the Central Division, but are currently surging with a 5-game winning streak.  Having played just last night, and having to travel to Nashville might prove to be a mild challenge that the Hawks will have to overcome, but never underestimate the power of momentum, in sports.  The line of Brad Richards, Patrick Kane and Kris Versteeg continues to produce, and they will be needed again tonight.  Jonathan Toews scored a goal on the Power Play, last night, and it would be nice to see that unit gaining some steam, as it could give the Hawks a big edge, tonight.

Starting in net, for the Hawks tonight, will be Scott Darling.  In the small sample size of 3 games, Darling has been great with a .933 Save Percentage.

Rarely at this point in the season are there games with great stakes, but this is almost an exception.  There’s still a lot of hockey to be played in the season, but divisional games always mean more, and 1st place is 1st place, no matter how you slice it.  It should be a good one, tonight.

Go Hawks!