The surging Nashville Predators take on the Chicago Blackhawks tonight in what will be their third meeting of the season between the divisional rivals.
Recent memory suggests that the Nashville Predators are gaining an edge over the traditional powerhouse that is the Blackhawks. If not for a late collapse in their first meeting of the regular season, the Predators would be looking for their seventh-straight win in the series.
The Blackhawks are still a dangerous team, but they’re not the world beaters that they’ve traditionally been over the last decade. They’re currently sitting four points behind the Predators in the division standings with 27 points.
Blackhawks not going away
A sluggish start is starting to be forgotten for the Blackhawks. They’re on a hot streak of their own with wins in five of their last seven games. Wins over Pittsburgh and Anaheim are included in that, and they took Tampa Bay to overtime. This team is starting to find its way, so watch for them to make their run back to the top of the division.
However, the Blackhawks are still a shell of their former self. Their average team age of over 28 has them as one of the oldest teams in the NHL, per nhlnumbers.com. Age is finally starting to catch up with them. This doesn’t mean they’re not playoff contenders, but the Predators have passed them in my opinion. This third meeting of the season is a chance for the Predators to further prove that point.
It looks like the Predators will dodge the red-hot Corey Crawford in net as the Blackhawks are on the back end of a back-to-back. They’ll likely see Anton Forsberg, per Blackhawks beat writer Mark Lazerus:
Forsberg has six games under his belt, giving up nearly four goals per game over that stretch. There will be opportunities for the Predators to pile on the goals against a Blackhawks team that gives up a lot of high danger scoring chances.
Predators building on team chemistry
Much like Chicago’s slow start, the Nashville Predators are making up for their ugly beginning to the season. They’re building a lot of chemistry that’s translating to winning streaks. This roster had to deal with lot of changes from their Stanley Cup team. You can argue that they’re better than last year now that these new pieces are jelling.
With points in 10 of their last 12 games, the Predators can’t afford to slow down. The division is a massive logjam with 11 points separating first and last place. The Predators have to take care of business in games like this and build more distance between them and the middle of the pack.
A major component of the Predators’ recent success is their balanced scoring. They’re not depending on a couple of players to carry the load. Eight players are in double digits for points. A balanced scoring attack is what it takes to be an elite team. Filip Forsberg leads the way with 24 points, followed by P.K. Subban at 18 points.
The Predators get the Blackhawks at home for the first time since sweeping them out of the playoffs. The crowd will be extra rowdy, but the Predators have to keep their emotions in check.
We know what we’re going to get from the top two lines, which is high offensive pressure and scoring chances. However, the third line is intriguing for me. Pontus Aberg is fighting consistency issues, and Nick Bonino has been underwhelming in his new uniform.
Predators win in overtime in an exciting, high-scoring affair. An overtime goal from the JoFA line ends this game 4-3.
Where to watch
The game will be televised nationally on the NBC Sports Network at 7 PM CDT. The radio broadcast will be on 102.5 The Game and coverage starts at 6 PM CDT.