NHL Playoff Predictions: Chicago vs. Nashville

The best team in the West versus the worst team. It’s how the playoffs used to work, but with the new wildcard system, you’re more likely to see something a little more competitive in the first round. Chicago Blackhawks vs. the Nashville Predators. Who’s going to win the series? The answer may (not) surprise you.

CENTRAL DIVISION

  1. CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS vs. WC2 NASHVILLE PREDATORS

CHICAGO:
50-23-9 109 PTS (3rd in NHL)
Goals For – 244 (9th)
Goals Against – 213 (10th)
Last 10: 3-3-4

NASHVILLE:
41-29-12 94 PTS (16th in NHL)
Goals For – 240 (11th)
Goals Against – 224 (15th)
Last 10: 5-4-1

Fairly similar numbers between teams thirteen places apart in the standings. The Predators may be 5-4-1 in the last 10, but have 5 losses in their last 7 games, while the Blackhawks lost their last 4 games after acquiring wins over Pittsburgh and Columbus, but the good news is, somebody has to win every game.

SPECIAL TEAMS:

CHICAGO:
Power Play – 18.03% (19th)
Penalty Kill – 77.7% (24th)

NASHVILLE:
Power Play – 18.9% (16th)
Penalty Kill – 80.9% (15th)

Special teams may be a difference in this series and may be a key for the Predators in beating the Blackhawks, who give up a goal every 4th man-advantage. As long as the Blackhawks limit their penalties, they should win, but Nashville needs to make the most of every opportunity.
Advantage: NSH

GETTING THE PUCK ON NET:

CHICAGO:
Shots For – 30.6/game (11th)
Shots Against – 31.4/game (22nd)
Shooting % – 9.6% (9th)

NASHVILLE:
Shots For – 31.2/game (6th)
Shots Against – 30.1/game (16th)
Shooting % – 9.3% (13th)

If their games against each other this season is any indication, every game will be a high shot and high scoring affair. The playoffs are a different animal, however, and games tend to trend to the more defensive, which would be in Chicago’s favour. They surrendered more shots against per game than they generated, but a strong season by Corey Crawford propelled the ‘Hawks to 1st in the West. These numbers though, favour the Predators.
Advantage: NSH

HEAD-TO-HEAD:

Oct. 14th – 3-2 NSH
Oct. 15th – 5-3 CHI
Dec. 29th – 3-2 CHI
Jan. 8th – 5-2 CHI
Mar. 4th – 5-3 CHI

INJURIES:

CHICAGO:
Andrew Desjardins – Day-To-Day (Lower Body)
Michal Roszival – Day-To-Day (Upper Body)
Niklas Hjalmarsson – Day-To-Day (Personal)

NASHVILLE:
Calle Jarnkrok – Day-To-Day (Lower Body)
Vernon Fiddler – Day-To-Day (Upper Body)
Colin Wilson – Day-To-Day (Lower Body)
Mike Fisher – Day-To-Day (Lower Body)
Yannick Weber – Day-To-Day (Upper Body)

SCHEDULE (ALL TIMES CST):
Game 1: Thursday, April 13th: 6:00 PM (Sportsnet, NBCSN)
Game 2: Saturday, April 15th: 6:00 PM (Sportsnet, NBC)
Game 3: Monday, April 17th: 7:30 PM (Sportsnet One, CNBC)
Game 4: Thursday, April 20th: TBD (Sportsnet 360)
Game 5: Saturday, April 22nd: TBD*
Game 6: Monday, April 24th: TBD*
Game 7: Wednesday, April 26th: TBD*
*If necessary

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FINAL THOUGHTS:

Normally, this would be a no-brainer of a prediction. Chicago Blackhawks, even if they weren’t the best team in the West, would be favourites against any team, but this series is a bit tricky. The Predators are a tough team, matching the Hawks in goals scored and surrendered, while also having a superior special teams (although not by much) and better shot generation and suppression. Corey Crawford vs. Pekka Rinne is going to be a big storyline in this series, because both goalies put up similar numbers and it might come down to what goaltender has the better 7 games. If Patrick Kane takes it into his own hands, then this series isn’t close, but if the Predators can shut him down, they may just have a chance. This one will be closer than you may think. Blackhawks in 7 games.

*All stats courtesy of http://www.hockey-reference.com

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