Blackhawks

Blackhawks-Predators Round 1: Who has the edge?

blackhawks-preds-who-has-the-edge-slide.png

Blackhawks-Predators Round 1: Who has the edge?

The matchup is set and on Wednesday night, it begins when the Blackhawks face the Nashville Predators in Game 1 of their first-round series.

So who has the edge? No, we don’t do overall predictions, but we will break down the various categories and see who’s got the advantage in them. Let’s proceed.

Forwards

Patrick Kane was cleared on Monday, and with that the Blackhawks’ forward depth gets a tremendous boost. If he is back beginning with Game 1 – we still think that may be a bit too soon, but not our call – the Blackhawks’ puck-possession and scoring games should automatically get better. Kane had 64 points when he suffered his injury on Feb. 24. Only Jonathan Toews has more than that now (66). For all the forward talent the Blackhawks have, they've struggled to score and that hurt them down the stretch.

[RELATED - Stanley Cup Playoffs: Full schedule for Blackhawks-Predators]

The Predators bolstered their lineup over the summer, adding scoring weapons like James Neal and Mike Ribeiro. Filip Forsberg had put together a nice rookie season, recording a team-high 63 points (Ribeiro is next with 62).

We’d give the Blackhawks the automatic edge here normally, even with the Predators’ additions. But since that scoring has gone by the wayside… EDGE: Even.

Defense

Between Nick Leddy’s trade in September and Trevor van Riemsdyk’s injury in November, the Blackhawks defense took some hits. The changes and injuries had coach Joel Quenneville splitting up Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, as well as Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya. Michal Rozsival has struggled, as had David Rundblad. Kimmo Timonen was acquired at the deadline. But between coming off a 10-month recovery off blood clots and missing the last three games with an upper-body injury, he has yet to make an impact.

When you think Nashville you think Shea Weber and that howitzer of a shot he has from the blue line. Opponents who have gotten in its way have the bruises to prove it. Roman Josi has been tremendous, recording 55 points and a plus-15 rating this season. Here’s another toss-up category. EDGE: Even.

Goaltending

Corey Crawford is having arguably his best season with the Blackhawks. Other than the rough spot he had after his off-ice ankle injury, Crawford’s been strong. He was especially key down the stretch, when he led the Blackhawks to victories despite a lack of offense. Pekka Rinne wasn’t at his best as the regular season ended but he was still damn good this season, finishing with an NHL third-best 2.18 goals-against average and an eighth-best .923 goals-against average. Why do we sense a few 2-1 games and maybe a shutout or two coming in this series? EDGE: Even.

Power play

We were all set to give this category to the Predators but their power play is actually ranked lower than the Blackhawks’ advantage (25th in the league compared to 20th). Who knew? But the Predators did score three power-play goals over their last five regular season games. The Blackhawks, meanwhile, haven’t scored a power-play goal since March 30. EDGE: Predators

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Blackhawks fans!]

Penalty kill

The Blackhawks took a hit in this department toward the end of the season but there could have been a few reasons for that. Joakim Nordstrom, a good killer, was injured for several games. Then Jonathan Toews was pulled off it to lessen his minutes down the stretch. They finished the regular season 10th best on the kill. The Predators weren’t faring much better and were 18th in the NHL on it this season. The kill has been a strong suit for the Blackhawks the past few years. It probably will be again this postseason. EDGE: Blackhawks

Intangibles

Full marks to Nashville: they got a new coach (Peter Laviolette), a new system and a new attitude. The Predators got off to a fantastic start this season before a few hiccups at the end, but they sat atop the Central for quite some time before St. Louis usurped them. The Blackhawks have a wealth of experience at this time of year. They know how to deal with the ups and downs, know how to enjoy the victory for a short time and forget about the crushing overtime loss immediately. And that experience may prove to be the difference. EDGE: Blackhawks

2014 Western Conference Final between Blackhawks and Kings named "Series of the Decade"

kings_2014.png
AP

2014 Western Conference Final between Blackhawks and Kings named "Series of the Decade"

On Saturday, NHL.com named the 2014 Western Conference Final between the Chicago Blackhawks and LA Kings the "Series of the Decade." 

They hit the nail on the head.

In that seven-game battle, you're talking about the two best teams of the decade each around their prime slugging it out for all of us to enjoy. Oh, and overtime in Game 7 to decide who'd play for the Stanley Cup in the Final... 

The Hawks won Game 1 3-1 at the United Center, then lost Game 2 6-2 in Chicago after the Kings scored six unanswered goals and Jeff Carter had a hat trick. The Blackhawks lost 4-3 in Game 3 and 5-2 in Game 4, both of those contests were at the Staples Center in LA.

Trailing the series 3-1, Michal Handzus scored 2:04 into overtime to help the Hawks to a 5-4 win at the UC. Patrick Kane scored with less than four minutes remaining in the third period in Game 6 in LA to give Chicago a 4-3 win with Game 7 set for the United Center.

The Hawks had an early 2-0 lead in Game 7, but Alec Martinez's wrist shot deflected off Nick Leddy and into Chicago's net past Corey Crawford for a 5-4 Kings' victory.  

LA went on to the Stanley Cup Final and beat the New York Rangers in five games.

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.

Blackhawks star Patrick Kane’s legacy will live on forever in London after jersey retirement

patrick_kane_ohl.jpg
Bolt London

Blackhawks star Patrick Kane’s legacy will live on forever in London after jersey retirement

LONDON, Ont. — Patrick Kane will forever be linked to the London Knights after having his No. 88 jersey retired on Friday in a special pregame ceremony. And it was an emotional moment for the Blackhawks superstar, which doesn’t happen often.

“I didn’t really expect that,” Kane told NBC Sports Chicago. “I didn’t know what to expect, to be honest with you. I spent one year here. It was a great year. It felt like more than one year with all the memories I made here and all the friends and relationships I have today.

"The video was pretty special. Obviously with the things that happened in London but even more-so maybe the things that happened in Chicago and everything coming together. You’re just standing there and that’s your career over 13 years, so I think that started hitting me.”



Kane became the ninth player in Knights history to have his number retired, but the first to receive the honor after playing just one season. It’s because it was a historic one.

As a 17-year-old, Kane registered 62 goals and 83 assists for a league-leading 145 points in 58 games during the 2006-07 campaign and was named the Canadian Hockey League’s Rookie of the Year. He went on to post 31 points (10 goals, 21 assists) in 16 playoff games before falling short in the Conference finals.

But before he committed to the Knights, Kane wasn't drawing as much attention as he would've thought. Draft experts projected him to go in the third round and Kane wasn't buying it.

“I couldn't believe it to be honest with you,” Kane said. “I thought I was a lot better than that."

Did he ever prove them wrong.

Kane quickly started to separate himself from the pack in London, and after a strong performance at the 2007 IIHF World Junior Championship, his name was now being discussed for No. 1 overall. And that's exactly what happened.

“Just coming here, not really worrying about that stuff,” Kane said of the draft hype. “I mean, obviously there's outside noise when it's your draft year but I always said the ice rink is my sanctuary out there. That's what I love to do the most and feel the most comfortable, is being on the ice and playing hockey, making plays and trying to score goals.”

Back in London, Kane got a chance to reflect on how far he's come since his days with the Knights. He's a three-time Stanley Cup champion and a former Hart Trophy winner who's still at the top of his game at age 31.

But touring his old locker room — which he said "looks the exact same" — was a reminder for Kane on how quickly his hockey career has flown by.

"It's crazy to think I'm in my 13th year now," Kane said. "We were just looking for our team picture in the room and I was way too far from the recent teams to where I should've been looking. A little bit of time has passed."

A lot of time has passed, but Kane's impact on the organization and community is everlasting.

Screaming young fans in No. 88 Blackhawks jerseys were in awe that Kane was within reaching distance. He signed autographs, took pictures with as many as he could, shook the hand of longtime faculty members and arena workers that he recognized from his playing days in London and smiled his way around the Budweiser Gardens — which Kane knows as The John Labatt Centre.

Kane even gave the Knights a pep talk in the locker room before the game. Even though he didn't play in London very long, it says something about your legacy when aspiring players are choosing to play for the Knights because they look up to No. 88.

“That’s what it’s all about right there,” Kane said. “I remember being a little kid and looking up to certain hockey players too and wanting to be just like them, so if that’s the way this younger generation looks at me, that’s what it’s all about for me. I enjoy that. That excites me, that makes me happy.”

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.