Nashville Predators Return Home for Rematch With Chicago Blackhawks

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 29: Ryan Johansen #92 of the Nashville Predators shoots the puck against Calvin de Haan #44 of the Chicago Blackhawks at Bridgestone Arena on October 29, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 29: Ryan Johansen #92 of the Nashville Predators shoots the puck against Calvin de Haan #44 of the Chicago Blackhawks at Bridgestone Arena on October 29, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images) /

There’s a roadblock that the Nashville Predators have to get past as they’ve lost five of their last six. They have the Chicago Blackhawks up next.

It’s important that the Nashville Predators don’t let this current slump turn into something bigger. We already know it’s going to be a crowded division race and the Predators have already fallen to fifth place in the Central.

Just three points behind them is the Chicago Blackhawks. A team that the Predators absolutely dominated nearly three weeks ago. That seems like an eternity ago, and the Predators have just one win since that 3-0 shutout win. That was in the midst of a four-game winning streak.

The Blackhawks have won two-straight with impressive wins over Vegas and Toronto. Their offense is starting to find some life scoring five goals in each of their last three wins. So we have two teams going in different directions, and it’s also an early-season rematch within the division.

Where the Predators have to improve

It’s pretty easy to first look at the penalty kill, which has sunk to 25th in the league. They’re killing off just 75 percent of the opposition’s power play after finishing 6th in the league last season at an 82.1 percent success rate.

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There’s a lot of time to fix this with the regular season not even a quarter of the way completed. But this is the team’s most glaring weakness that we need to start seeing improvement in. Their most recent loss allowed the Vancouver Canucks to go a perfect 3-for-3 on their power play, including two critical goals in the third period.

This is an area I think is going to even out and the Predators are going to improve. Aside from the Vancouver game, they’ve been doing a good job at limiting chances by the other team’s power play unit. Some unfortunate bounces and bad luck has plagued them recently. It will eventually even itself out as there’s just too much talent on their penalty killing units to allow this trend to continue.

In return, the Blackhawks are 25th in the league in power play percentage. The Predators have had a nice little break since Tuesday to get some things corrected, and hopefully this area is one of them. This is a good opponent to improve your penalty kill on.

Usual suspects for the Blackhawks

We’ve all gotten to know Patrick Kane very well over the years. He’s still one of the best scorers in the game and is showing that again this season with 23 points in 18 games. He has a current four-game goal streak going and has five goals over that span.

Kane was held scoreless in their first meeting with Nashville back on October 29th. But you know who did everything in their power to keep the Predators scoreless the last meeting? That would be none other than Robin Lehner, who had 51 saves but still suffered the loss.

If Lehner goes off like that again, we could be in store for another loss. I don’t see the Predators shutting out the Blackhawks again as their offense is playing much better since their last meeting almost three weeks ago.

Lehner has just three starts since the Nashville meeting, and his most recent outing saw him put up 57 saves in a win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Incredible numbers that now has him second in the league in save percentage at .934. The Predators are going to have to bring their top game offensively and throw a lot of shots on goal at Lehner.

Some other dangerous players to keep an eye on in this one is Alex DeBrincat (15 points),  Dylan Strome (15 points) and rookie Kirby Dach (6 points). Chicago has a solid group of young talent that’s getting better and better each game they play together.

Prediction and analysis

I’ve been predicting the Predators to break out of this slump and get back on the winning track for the past couple of games, and been wrong each time. Something has to give sooner or later, right? I’m taking the Predators again thanks to them getting a few days off to reset everything and prepare for this big game

The Predators are coming back home and should be very focused to have a clean, mistake-free type of game. The projected lineup has Mikael Granlund back on the top line with Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg. On the second line we should see Calle Jarnkrok with Matt Duchene and Viktor Arvidsson. I really love that second line combination.

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Although the Blackhawks are playing much better since the last time we saw them, this is a great spot for the Predators to take care of business and notch a division win. I’m expecting a locked-in Predators team that will put a lot of shots on goal and get just enough by Lehner to take home a 3-2 win. Time for the sweet taste of victory again.