The 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs have arrived, so have Puck Daddy’s preview of all playoff series. Enjoy!
The Chicago Blackhawks finished with the top record in the Western Conference and gained home ice advantage during the first three rounds of the playoffs. They enter the postseason as the odds-on favorite to win the Stanley Cup.
Winger Patrick Kane led the team with 89 points and linemate Artemi Panarin notched 74 points. Captain Jonathan Toews overcame a sluggish start to finish with 30 points in his last 30 games and defenseman Duncan Keith notched 53 points in 80 games while averaging 25:37 of ice-time.
This season the Blackhawks allowed their younger players to have more ice-time and saw them excel. Rookie forward Ryan Hartman scored 19 goals and fellow rookie Nick Schmaltz notched 24 points in his final 35 games.
Goaltender Corey Crawford was his typically solid self with a 2.55 goal-against average and .918 save percentage in 55 games played. Over that stretch he had a 32-18-4 record with two shutouts.
The Blackhawks come into the playoffs as losers of four straight games, but they rested a lot of their veterans during that stretch to make sure they were ready for their Stanley Cup run.
Nashville was up and down for most of the season, but figured out ways to pull out important wins at crucial times.
The Predators cemented a spot in the playoffs by winning seven of eight games in March. These victories included two wins over the San Jose Sharks and one over the Washington Capitals.
Defenseman P.K. Subban sat out 16 games but when healthy averaged 24:24 of ice-time and notched 40 points in 66 games. Fellow blue liner Roman Josi saw a slight drop-off in production with 49 points in 72 games, but found his groove down the stretch.
Center Ryan Johansen had 61 points in 82 games this season in his first full year with the Predators, which tied Arvidsson for the team lead. Goaltender Pekka Rinne was sound with a 2.42 goal-against average and .918 save percentage in a bounce-back season for him.
Chicago Blackhawks (C1) vs. Nashville Predators (WC2)
Thursday, April 13, 8 p.m. ET: Predators @ Blackhawks| NBCSN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Saturday, April 15, 8 p.m. ET: Predators @ Blackhawks | NBC, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Monday, April 17, 9:30 p.m. ET: Blackhawks @ Predators | CNBC, SN ONE, TVA Sports
Thursday, April 20, TBD: Blackhawks @ Predators | SN 360, TVA Sports
*Saturday, April 22, TBD: Predators @ Blackhawks | TBD
*Monday, April 24, TBD Blackhawks @ Predators | TBD
*Wednesday April 26, TBD Predators @ Blackhawks | TBD
3 KEYS FOR THE BLACKHAWKS
1 – Dominate center ice. Though the Predators are better down the middle than they were in past series with the Hawks, Chicago can still exploit this match-up. Toews takes his game to another level in the playoffs and Artem Anisimov – if he’s healthy after missing the last three weeks of the season with a lower-body injury – is a more prolific player than Nashville’s Mike Fisher.
2 – Follow Kane’s lead. Kane just always seems to find a way to elevate his game in the postseason. His career is full of big goals and dynamite performances in the playoffs and Chicago needs to get him the puck at every possible opportunity.
3 – Stay out of the box. The Blackhawks held a woeful 77.7 penalty killing percentage this season, which ranked 24th in the NHL and was lowest amongst all playoff teams. A poorly timed penalty for Chicago could change the course of this series. They must stay disciplined.
3 KEYS FOR THE PREDATORS
1 – Feed the Swedes. Arvidsson and Forsberg are Nashville’s most dangerous offensive weapons. After a slow start to the season, Forsberg caught fire near the end of the year with 15 goals and 22 points in Nashville’s final 24 games. Arvidsson scored 10 goals in his final 19 games. If Chicago shuts them down, Nashville won’t have a chance.
2 – Find consistency fast. The Predators had four losing streaks of three-or-more games this year. When they’re off, they really seem to struggle mightily, but when they’re on they’re tough to beat. They need to figure out a way to stay level against the Blackhawks – a team that hardly beats itself.
3 – Roman Josi. The slick Swiss blue liner struggled early in the year, but found his rhythm after the all-star break where he notched 27 of his 49 points in that 30-game stretch. Josi is one of the keys to Nashville’s attack and the Predators need him at the top of his game.
5 STATS OF NOTE
1 – In two of their Stanley Cup runs this decade, the Blackhawks beat the Predators in the first-round of the playoffs.
2 – Per Corsica, the Predators ranked fifth in the NHL with a 51.47 adjusted 5-on-5 CF%. Chicago ranked 15th at 50.32.
3 – The Blackhawks have held home ice in the playoffs 12 times under coach Joel Quenneville and Chicago has won 11 of those series. The Blackhawks’ one series loss while holding home ice came in the 2014 Western Conference Final to the Los Angeles Kings. It took seven games and overtime in Game 7 to for LA to beat Chicago that round.
4 – Chicago outscored opponents 74-56 in the first periods of games this season while the Predators were outscored 67-55. In the second periods of games, the Preds scored 101 goals and allowed 69 while Chicago scored 70 and allowed 78. In third periods, the Blackhawks outscored opponents 87-70 while Nashville scored 78 goals and allowed 76 goals.
5 – Six Blackhawks players scored 20-or-more goals this season. Three Predators players hit the 20-goal mark.
Blackhawks in 6: This is arguably the best Nashville team the Blackhawks have faced in the playoffs, but the Predators don’t have the same high-end talent, or overall depth, as Chicago.
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