#1 – Nashville Predators –
On the other end of the standings seesaw with the Blues for first place in the Central Division are the Nashville Predators, which I believe are the best first round match-up for the Blackhawks for several reasons. The Predators are certainly a strong squad that has had a great regular season, but when it comes to the post-season, the Preds haven’t had their playoff card punched since 2012. Additionally, the Predators went on a six game losing streak earlier this month, which raises a few eyebrows regarding their grit and resourcefulness as a team.
However, the one attribute about the Predators that makes them an ideal first round opponent for the Hawks is their playoff experience, or lack thereof. Consider if you will, the Colorado Avalanche of last year. The Avs were a talented team under first-year head coach Patrick Roy that also had not made a post season appearance for several years. After occupying the lower rungs of the standings during several previous seasons, the Avalanche had Central Division-winning 2013-2014 campaign, only to go on and lose in the first round of the playoffs. The parallels between last year’s Avs and this year’s Preds are certainly noteworthy.
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In other words, the Predators’ saber-tooth logo may very well prove to be a paper tiger in the post season. Peter Laviolette has certainly done a great job in Nashville, but making a deep playoff run requires solid team chemistry that has been built up over several years, which is something that no amount of coaching can substitute. The Preds certainly have a promising future, but are weak in this period of transition, which is why they make the perfect first round playoff match-up for the Blackhawks.
The good news is that the Blackhawks have found ways to beat each and every one of these potential first round opponents, so regardless of who they face, what’s important now is for the Hawks to fortify their strengths, diminish their weaknesses, and prepare to take another solid run at the Stanley Cup.
FOR THE DAGGER!
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