Oct 23, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) handles the puck against Nashville Predators left wing James Neal (18) during the first period at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports
It’s here! It’s finally here! The Stanley Cup Playoffs begin tonight and our Chicago Blackhawks are all set to drop the puck in Music City against the Nashville Predators.
Tonight’s Game One of the 1st round of the playoffs between the Hawks and Predators is set to begin at 7:30 PM Central Time. The game can be seen on CSN-Chicago and can be heard on WGN 720 AM.
Throughout the 4-game season series between the Hawks and Preds, the Hawks won 3 of the 4. However, these teams haven’t played each other since December and every game was very close and down to the wire.
Here’s a statistical breakdown of the Hawks and Predators.
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Overall offensively, the Hawks were a bit below average during the regular season and will be up against a great Nashville defense.
Defensively, the Hawks were the 2nd best in the NHL throughout the season and will face the slightly above average Preds’ offense.
On the Power Play, the Hawks were inconsistent and overall bad during the season but will be facing a Nashville Penalty Kill that was overall below average during the course of the season.
For the Hawks, the Penalty Kill had slipped from being the elite standard of the league to being just barely in the top-10. The Hawks’ PK unit will be tasked with shutting down the Predators’ Power Play that was near the bottom of the league.
In the faceoff circle, the Hawks were a top-5 team during the regular season and tonight they will be taking draws against a Nashville squad that struggled mightily in the dot.
When it comes to puck-possession and creating chances, the Hawks were very good overall throughout the season and will face a Preds’ team that was also great but not quite as great as the Hawks.
On paper, the advantage would have to go to the Hawks. This will be a low-scoring series and the Hawks have more offensive depth than Nashville. However, Nashville has a bit more defensive depth than the Hawks. Either team’s respective depth advantages can either be flushed out or neutralized by the coaches, the lineups they use and when they use them. Home ice advantage will be very important and the Preds have it for the first two games, so we shall see…
The Predators top defense pairing of Shea Weber and Roman Josi is one of the best in the NHL. Weber is famous for his booming slap shot and Josi is a great puck mover and passer. Not only are these two a mighty offensive threat, but they are quite responsible defensively as well.
Nashville’s top offensive line consists of Mike Ribeiro centering Filip Forsberg and James Neal. Ribeiro is the table-setter and had 47 assists on the season. Neal is a goal scorer and “grit” of the line and the young Forsberg brings the electricity and the most offensive skill.
Starting in net for the Predators will be the great Pekka Rinne. Rinne posted a wonderful .923 Save Percentage in 64 games played. In 30 career games against the Hawks, Rinne has a .918 Save Percentage. In 28 career playoff games, Rinne has a .916 Save Percentage.
The Hawks will welcome back Patrick Kane. Kane’s return is huge and hopefully he can get back up to game speed as quickly as possible. Kane will skate on the second line with Brad Richards and Kris Versteeg. The top line will be the usual Jonathan Toews centering Marian Hossa and Brandon Saad. Keep an eye on the 3rd line of Andrew Shaw centering(groan) Bryan Bickell and Patrick Sharp. Bickell is known for being a playoff performer, Shaw has played well in playoffs’ past and Sharp has elite offensive talent.
The Hawks will need you utilize their offensive depth to beat the Predators, which will be a tough task on the road.
Starting in net for teh Hawks will be Corey Crawford. Crawford had a .924 Save Percentage in 57 games played during the regular season. In 17 career games against Nashville, Crawford has a dismal .894 Save Percentage. In 56 career playoff games, Crawford has a sterling .920 Save Percentage.
This is exciting and this is what Hawks fans wait for every year. Hopefully, the Hawks can “hit the switch” and turn into their playoff mode. They beleive they can and so should you. No Chicago sports team has been more deserving of the fan’s trust since the Cubs of the early 1900s. This will be fun. Enjoy it.