It’s the matchup we all wanted — or at least the one we all should want — in the playoffs’ opening round. The Chicago Blackhawks will hit the road for a pair of games against Nashville at Bridgestone Arena, playing Wednesday and Friday.
Other options for opening-round foes included a pair of physically unforgiving teams in St. Louis and Winnipeg, as well as a hot squad with more weapons that it lets on in Minnesota. So ’Hawks fans should be thrilled their team will see uber-classy Mike Ribeiro and the rest of the Predators in the opening round.
Can the ’Hawks defeat the Preds in a playoff series? Of course. But what are the key reasons this Chicago squad will triumph against an organization seemingly more concerned about red sweaters in its stadium than anything else?
Glad you asked. I’ve got five:
Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
1) The Blackhawks are catching the Predators at the right time. It sounds a little weird saying such a thing when the ’Hawks will carry a four-game skid into the place where They Like It, They Love It, They Want Some More of It (shudder). But the ’Hawks haven’t looked bad defensively during that stretch, although they aren’t exactly 100 percent OK either.
Meanwhile, the Preds are suddenly giving up boatloads of goals during a six-game winless run. Pekka Rinne and Co. permitted four or more tallies in five of those six outings. Sounds like a good cure for a stagnant Chicago offense.
What else would benefit that offense? The potential return of Patrick Kane, who Comcast SportsNet’s Dan Boyle believes will participate in full-contact practice today. Needless to say, the return of a guy who is second on the team in points, despite not playing since February, would provide a great boost for the ’Hawks. At the same time, let’s hope he isn’t being rushed back.