NHL Playoffs: Chicago Blackhawks vs Nashville Predators Prediction.
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.
For all of Chicago’s offensive success and depth, they finished 19th in the league on the power play at just 18.0 percent. That’s something that will need to be adjusted in the playoffs if they want to return to cup glory. And with units consisting of Artemi Panarin, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith, Richard Panik, Artem Anisimov, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Brian Campbell, Marian Hossa, Nick Schmaltz, Tanner Kero, Ryan Hartman, and Vinnie Hinostroza, they can return to glory. Their PK suffered too surprisingly when you look at the team’s defense, when you got guys like Campbell, Keith, Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Johnny Oduya, Andrew Desjardins, Jordin Tootoo, and Marcus Kruger you would think they would have finished better than 24th at 77.7 percent.
Nashville’s power-play was much better to many’s surprises, they finished at 18.9 percent which is good enough for 16th in the league, three spots ahead of Chicago. But what the Predators do that the Hawks don’t is run four forwards and one defenseman which will help things significantly. Their power play units consist mostly of James Neal, Ryan Johansen, P.K. Subban, Viktor Arvidsson, Calle Jarnkrok, Roman Josi, Filip Forsberg, Kevin Fiala, Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, Craig Smith and Mike Fisher. And that’s not counting forward Colin Wilson who is currently injured. Their PK did much better than Chicago’s as well finishing 15th in the league at 80.9 percent. But the Preds also have a lot of defensive forwards too, guys like Vernon Fiddler, Cody McLeod, Colton Sissons, and Austin Watson. Also let’s not forget their defensive defenseman, Yannick Weber, Matt Irwin, and Anthony Bitetto.
Both of these teams are extremely heavy upfront with the most skill coming from Chicago. Their offense consisting of Nick Schmaltz, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Artem Anisimov, Richard Panik, Ryan Hartman, Tanner Kero, Marian Hossa, John Hayden, and Marcus Kruger is a lot scarier than Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson, James Neal, Mike Fisher, Craig Smith, Kevin Fiala, Colin Wilson, P.A. Parenteau, Miikka Salomaki, and Calle Jarnkrok. And even though Chicago’s power play struggled and three of the guys I mentioned don’t have a lot of playoff experience, they can score and are paired with some deadly players, but so are Nashville’s
Now the defense is what wins championships and Chicago’s is downright perfect. Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith are the best shutdown pair the league has seen in a long time. Brian Campbell and Johnny Oduya also get the job done really well while Trevor van Riemsdyk and Niklas Hjalmarsson are no slouches themselves. Nashville’s defensive core consists mainly of offensive minded guys but they’re still pretty good. Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm, P.K. Subban, Matt Irwin, Anthony Bitetto, Roman Josi, and Yannick Weber can drive the play just as good as they can stop it.
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
FINAL SERIES RECORD: Chicago wins 4 games to 3
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