Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
2) The season series favors Chicago. We haven’t seen the Preds in person since 2014 (thanks, NHL scheduling department). The ’Hawks and Preds played all four of their regular-season games before the latter squad decided not to lose for three months (thanks, NHL scheduling department). Chicago held a 3-1 advantage, although one of those wins came against backup goalie and Chicago castoff Carter Hutton. That aside, the ’Hawks piled up 31 or more shots in each of the four contests, outshooting the Preds in three. If the ’Hawks continue to throw the puck to the net as they did in those four contests, the goals will arrive.
Oil On Whyte
3) The Blackhawks are better at the dot.
Nashville has most of its forwards listed as centers on its team website. We will definitely see Ribeiro, Mike Fisher and Paul Gaustad at center for this series, with Calle Jarnkrok, Mike Santorelli, Matt Cullen and Colin Wilson vying for the other spot.
When comparing the teams’ centers, we should note the ’Hawks have two of the league’s top 10 faceoff winners this season, with Jonathan Toews at No. 4 (947) and Antoine Vermette at No. 8 (872).
Let’s look at faceoff win percentages for the players both squads most frequently employ at the dot:
Toews: 56.5 percent over 1,675 faceoffs
Vermette: 55.3 percent over 1,577 faceoffs
Marcus Kruger: 53.3 percent over 670 faceoffs
Andrew Shaw: 50.1 percent over 712 faceoffs
Brad Richards: 48.4 percent over 825 faceoffs
Gaustad: 56.4 percent over 1,097 faceoffs
Cullen: 54 percent over 287 faceoffs
Fisher: 52.3 percent over 1,149 faceoffs
Jarnkrok: 46.2 percent over 641 faceoffs
Santorelli: 46.2 percent over 186 faceoffs
Ribeiro: 43.2 percent over 1,348 faceoffs
Wilson: 39.9 percent over 178 faceoffs
Those numbers look encouraging, right? I was pretty sure Shaw’s season percentage was 12 before I looked it up. It’s even more encouraging when you consider Gaustad is used primarily in fourth-line and special-teams duty, so he won’t be seen as often.
Winning faceoffs is a critical aspect to getting an offensive play started or keeping someone like Shea Weber or Roman Josi from sending a big shot toward Corey Crawford from the point. Board battles are just as important in that respect (paging Marian Hossa and Brandon Saad), but being able to send Toews, Vermette and Kruger out against any of the above Preds should help the ’Hawks on both ends of the ice.