The NHL Playoffs Start on Wednesday, A Few Teams Surprised Us All and Made it in the Big Show. But Who Will Finish as the Stanley Cup Champion? Follow This Prediction Series to Find Out!
BREAKDOWN OF THE TEAMS SEASON: For the first time in a while, the Chicago Blackhawks won the Pacific Division title. They put up 50 regulation wins during the season for a total of 109 points. But if you have been following Chicago you know the biggest surprise of the Blackhawks season has to be the young guys, especially Richard Panik who went from AHL forward, to a fourth line player to a first line player with Jonathan Toews and rookie Nick Schmaltz. In the months of October and November, Panik was one of the hottest goal scorers before slowing down. What else came as a surprise was the duel between Scott Darling and Corey Crawford, which for a bit looked like Darling would be taking over the starting job. But then Corey does what he does best and gave Chicago a reason to keep him as their bonafide number one. As all of you, hockey fans know the biggest surprise from Nashville came during the off-season when they moved captain Shea Weber to Montreal for offensive defenseman P.K. Subban. Viktor Arvidsson and Kevin Fiala had breakout seasons as well as Ryan Johansen finally who put up 61 points, 47 of which were assists. Another big surprise was the emergence of Juuse Saros as a backup, many thought he wouldn’t be able to handle it but quickly proved everyone wrong every time he suited up. But despite the solid year from Nashville they only scored 240 goals and finished in the second wild card spot, but that doesn’t mean this won’t be an exciting matchup in the NHL playoffs.
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Apr 4, 2017; Nashville, TN, USA; Nashville Predators center Mike Fisher (12) is congratulated by teammates after a goal during the second period against the New York Islanders at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 4, 2017; Nashville, TN, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk (57) is hit by Nashville Predators left wing Austin Watson (51) during the first period at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 3, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith (2) takes a shot during the first period against the New York Islanders at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 18, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) during their game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. The Blackhawks beat the Maple Leafs 2-1 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
This is where things become a totally different scenario in team breakdowns. In one corner theirs Corey Crawford who is among the best and in the other corner is Pekka Rinne who is just as good. But the real difference is the backups, Scott Darling is way more talented and composed in the net than Juuse Saros and to boot has more playoff experience. So when you got two solid goalies to rely on instead of one, you’re in a great position.
This series is gonna come down to two things, special teams and goaltending. While Nashville possessed the better power play and penalty kill in the regular season, one thing is for certain and that is you should never count out this Chicago team which has to much fire power. So if Nashville is able to shut down Chicago’s power play while scoring when they are on their own, then theirs one thing left and that’s goaltending. It’s going to be a great showdown between Crawford and Rinne but Corey has proven he can handle the constant pressure, just look at his cups. And if something were to happen to Rinne and Nashville has to rely on Saros, the season’s over for the Preds