The staff at A to Z Sports throws out their picks for the first-round series between the Predators and Blackhawks.
The Predators and Blackhawks will begin their first-round series tonight in Chicago. The Predators are looking to do something they’ve never done which is find success against the ‘Hawks in the postseason.
Watch the game 7:00pm on FSTN and NBCS.
Before puck drop we of course have to give our predictions for this extremely hyped series.
It’s the Blackhawks. I could write just those three words actually and that would be plenty of reason to pick the Predators to lose this series based on the past.
The Predators matchup well against this ‘Hawks team. Yes, they went 1-4-0 against Chicago during the regular season, but their last meeting came back on March 4. Nashville is much healthier now than they were earlier in the season and the Preds have played solid hockey down the stretch for the most part, but the lack of consistency and killer instinct was the theme all season long. Where is the evidence that those two key aspects will just emerge in the playoffs?
From the advance analytics crowd, this series is basically a coin-flip. From the ‘traditional’ mainstream media, nobody is giving Nashville a chance whatsoever, which probably means the Preds will sweep the series.
Nashville’s numbers matchup hand-in-hand with Chicago’s. The Blackhawks penalty-kill has also been a talking point seeing how they finished 24th in the league, but the home-ice advantage for Chicago and the likes of Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, and Jonathan Toews will prove to be too much, yet again, for the Predators.
With that being said, the Predators can absolutely win this series. I don’t even think Pekka Rinne has to play out of this world either. He’s obviously the biggest factor in this series and has played great as of late. If he has an above average series, players like James Neal, Craig Smith and Colin Wilson turn it up and P.K. Subban plays up to the hype, Nashville could advance to the next round, but I don’t see enough bounces falling their way and playmakers stepping up when needed to give the Predators the edge.
The dreaded Chicago Blackhawks… not exactly who the Preds wanted to see if the first round of the playoffs this season. You can say “if you wanna be the best, you gotta beat the best” all you want, but the Preds can’t beat the best right now. The Blackhawks are the best team in hockey, in my opinion, and they are all in the minds of the Preds and Preds fans.
The hype coming into this season was warranted with the blockbuster P.K. Subban trade, but the Predators couldn’t develop chemistry with the new lineups because of one reason: lack of health. Five of the Preds core players (Subban, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Mike Fisher and James Neal) missed a combined 59 games due to injury. The defense, clearly, was affected by this and Pekka Rinne will have to have a near perfect series.
Nashville has loads of talent when fully healthy, however, this team hasn’t been able to play together for enough time to figure it all out. The Blackhawks are too good, too seasoned to drop this series to the Preds. Sure, Nashville will win a game, maybe two, but the Hawks will move on and piss off the city of Nashville once again. Especially by clinching the series on the Preds’ home ice.
As the eight seed, it’s not how the Nashville Predators envisioned their season going after trading for P.K. Subban last offseason, but they’re in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and that’s all that matters. The Preds started their season out with a great win against Chicago but after that, Nashville was outscored 18-10 by Chicago in their four other meetings. Everyone is picking the Blackhawks but I’m going the opposite direction on this.
It’s all about Game 1. The Preds have the worst road record out of all of the playoff teams (17-20-4) which means they must steal the first game in Chicago to have a chance. That is what I think will happen. With the emergence of Viktor Arvidson, the growth of Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen, and experience of Subban, Mike Fisher, and Pekka Rinne, this is the year the Preds get over the hump and defeat the Blackhawks.