Well the first two series were so fun, let’s do it again.
When the Blackhawks and Nashville Predators meet in their first-round series beginning on Thursday, there won’t be many surprises. You know what you get with each team.
There isn’t much more of an intro we can give you here, so let’s look at who has the edge in various categories.
The Blackhawks will enter this postseason in much better shape among their forward lines. Their top three lines are pretty much set – they have things to figure out on the fourth – and production has been across the board. Six Blackhawks forwards have 20 or more goals this season. Ryan Hartman, who finished with 19 goals, was close to joining that group. The Predators do pretty well in this department, too. Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg have led the charge, each scoring 31 goals this season. James Neal, who came on toward the end of the 2015 series between these two, scored 23 this season. Both teams have their offensive weapons. EDGE: Even.
The Predators went through their big change here in the offseason when they acquired P.K. Subban from Montreal for Shea Weber. Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis are their other steady guys back there. The Blackhawks gained some depth again with re-acquiring Johnny Oduya at the trade deadline. Niklas Hjalmarsson missed the last few games while he and his wife awaited the birth of their second son. He’ll be ready to go. Will Duncan Keith have the series he did against these guys in 2015? That possibility, combined with the Blackhawks’ experience at this time of year… EDGE: Blackhawks.
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Neither team is outstanding overall on the advantage. The Blackhawks are 19th in the league with an 18 percent success rate and the Predators are 16th overall at 18.9 percent. The Predators were damn good on the power play at home this season (sixth in the NHL). Still, this one appears to be a draw. EDGE: Even.
The Blackhawks finished the regular season ranked 24th in this category. Although considering their horrific start to the season on the kill, that ranking comes with a bit of an asterisk. Since March 1 the Blackhawks have killed off 37 of 44 power plays, so it was more reliable at the end. And this has always been their strength in the playoffs. The Predators are 15th in the league overall on the kill but they’re outstanding on the road (ninth in the NHL at 83.3 percent). That’ll come in handy at the United Center. EDGE: Even.
Corey Crawford started the season as strong as ever. Even though he had more ups and downs following his appendectomy he still put together another great season. Pekka Rinne was as inconsistent as the rest of the Predators through most of this season but was good at the end, going 6-3-1 in his final 10 outings. Yes, we all remember what happened to Crawford in this series two seasons ago. He came back to finish it. In between Scott Darling was stellar, and the Blackhawks still have that nice 1-2 punch in net. EDGE: Blackhawks.
You look through the stats between these two teams and there are a lot of similarities. But as the gents at 102.5 The Game in Nashville said, the Blackhawks always seem to find a way to get that needed goal, to make that critical play. That’s part of the intangibles that are so crucial during the postseason. You’ve got guys who have been here, done this before and it shows at this time of year. The timely goals, plays, ability to weather situations that don’t go your way; when it comes to the intangibles… EDGE: Blackhawks.