As the 2020-21 NHL regular season begins to wind down, the Nashville Predators control their destiny. How they perform in an upcoming three-game set against the Chicago Blackhawks could determine if they make the playoffs or begin their Summer vacations early.
The Predators hold a mere two-point lead over the Blackhawks for the coveted 4th playoff spot in the Central Division. The Dallas Stars are also knocking on the door and could make things interesting.
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The Blackhawks have a game in hand while the Stars hold three. The Predators will see the Blackhawks three times in a row this week. The Stars will see the Detroit Red Wings four times in six days.
After this run at the Predators, Chicago has games against the top teams in the Central Division, including a three-game run against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Once the Predators wrap up with Chicago, they have games against Florida, Columbus, Dallas and two final games against Carolina, who they haven’t beaten this season in six tries.
With only ten games left in the season and other teams with games in hand, the Predators have to capitalize on every opportunity to pick up points in the standings. They may also have to rely on some scoreboard luck to even get into the playoffs.
The Chicago Blackhawks Have Everything To Gain
The Predators have swept the Blackhawks in every meeting this season. Chicago will come out with all guns blazing in an attempt to play spoiler to Nashville’s plans.
The Blackhawks have won four of their last six games, including wins over Dallas and Columbus, both teams who could spoil Chicago’s playoff aspirations.
Goaltender Malcolm Subban pitched a shutout in Chicago’s last game against the Red Wings. Up until that game, Kevin Lankinen had started in eight straight games with varying degrees of success. The Blackhawks will have a tough decision to make when picking a goaltender for this first game against Nashville.
The Blackhawks will be looking to veteran Patrick Kane (15 goals, 41 assists) to finally get them over the hump against Nashville. With help from Alex DeBrincat (22 goals, 21 assists) and Dominik Kubalik (14 goals, 15 assists), Chicago will put all of their cards on the table and do whatever it takes to beat the Predators.
The Nashville Predators Must Win
I usually say, with some frequency, that one game or another is the most “important” of the season. This game and ultimately all three against Chicago are hugely important and could mean the season for Nashville.
The Predators were riding high on a 13-3 run until they ran into the red-hot Carolina Hurricanes, losing their last two. These two Nashville losses and a Chicago win allowed the Blackhawks to pull within two points in the standings.
Nashville’s last meeting with Chicago resulted in a 3-0 win and the 13th career shutout for goaltender Juuse Saros. With two losses and starts in six of the Predators’ last seven games, Saros may get a rest in favor of Pekka Rinne, who has had great success against Chicago.
With Matt Duchene finally back in the lineup after a lengthy injury, fans now look for any news of the return of Filip Forsberg and Eeli Tolvanen. Both are out of the lineup with injuries, sorely missed in a Predators lineup that needs some offensive firepower.
The Predators have done an excellent job filling the holes left by injured veterans with younger players who have stepped up and helped secure victories. Now with two straight losses, the Predators are showing some chinks in their armor and need to reclaim their winning identity.
The Predators can ill afford to lose to a Blackhawks team that they have dominated this season. A poor showing in any of these upcoming games can have disastrous effects and could mean the end of the Predators’ playoff hopes.
Nashville will need to put the two Carolina losses way behind them and get back to their winning ways and remember how they changed their fortunes by turning a horrible season around.
The puck drops at 7:00 PM CDT and will be televised on Bally Sports South. Follow along with us on Twitter for up-to-the-minute game commentary.