It seems like the Nashville Predators are finally ready to turn a corner and build a lengthy winning streak as the Chicago Blackhawks come to town.
There has been no shortage of impressive victories over quality opponents this season from the Nashville Predators. Most recently they have a three-game winning streak over Anaheim, Minnesota and heavyweight Tampa Bay.
Now an old rival in the Chicago Blackhawks comes to Bridgestone Arena where the Predators have built a 5-1-1 record in the early going. The Blackhawks are still kind of in that rebuilding mode, but it’s safe to put them as a fringe playoff team.
The Predators have two more home games left after this one with Chicago before they embark on a four-game road trip that will take them to the West Coast. Time to take a look at this matchup with the Blackhawks, a team that has plenty of veteran stars and young talent.
Who stands out for Chicago
Obviously you have to start with Patrick Kane, who is easily one of the best scorers in the game. He’s always capable of striking for a big goal and taking momentum away from the opposition. He’s got nine points through the team’s first ten games, with three goals and six assists.
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Their young rising star is Alex DeBrincat. He’s already in his third season after posting 76 points last season, a 24-point increase from his rookie season. The Blackhawks actually have some nice, quality depth up and down the roster. They’re not going to blow you away with superstars, but they’re definitely rebuilding into a playoff contender.
Jonathan Toews anchors the top line at center alongside Kane. You simply can’t let your guard down in the slightest against these two players who have built a ton of chemistry over the years. They match the Predators’ top line in this one, if not even have a slight edge.
In net the Blackhawks have split the starts evenly between Robin Lehner and Corey Crawford. I’d rather see Crawford in net as a Predators fan, but either one can get hot and put up a gem. Lehner has the better stats between the two out of the gate with a .935 save percentage and letting in just 2.16 goals per game in five starts. Lehner started last, so if they’re alternating then we might see Crawford tonight.
Why this is a trap game
The Predators are the better team in a seven-game series, but for just one game I wouldn’t be incredibly shocked if the Blackhawks sneak out with a win. The depth that Chicago has is nothing to scoff at, and the Predators are waiting to get their two top guns back in Matt Duchene and Filip Forsberg.
This most recent win for the Predators saw them get a 3-2 overtime win over a top Stanley Cup contender in Tampa Bay. They did it without Duchene and Forsberg in the lineup. Big kudos is owed to Calle Jarnkrok for living up to the spotlight of playing on the top line. He’s been the biggest surprise to open the Predators’ season.
We’ll most likely see Pekka Rinne back in net for the Predators, who hasn’t lost in regulation yet this season.He’s 6-0-1 and is giving up less than two goals per game. There is no sign of age catching up to him as he’s still carrying the Predators to big wins when they’re starting off slow offensively.
With all of this said, the Predators might stumble here. The Blackhawks have the scorers to strike early and hold a lead. This isn’t a team you want to see the Predators having to make another comeback against. This is also just the third divisional game of the early season, with the other two coming against Minnesota.
I’m ready to see the Predators back at full strength again with Duchene and Forsberg. I remain uncertain about Forsberg returning for this one, but Duchene should go after seeing him practice on Monday, per Adam Vingan:
I’m putting my objective hat on here and saying the Blackhawks jump on the Predators early, and close it out in overtime. I think this is going to be a fun, fast-pace game that fans love to watch. The Predators are going to get their goals too, but Rinne is due for an off night. He is human after all. I hate myself for this, but Chicago wins this one 4-3 in overtime.
Puck drop is 7 PM CDT at Bridgestone Arena and will be televised on Fox Sports Tennessee. Catch the radio broadcast on 102.5 The Game.