The Nashville Predators completed what I will refer to as the “Gentleman’s Sweep” on the season against the Chicago Blackhawks, going 7-0-1 and collecting 15 of 16 points on the year as they finished off the matchup with a 3-1 win.
After the inexplicable overtime loss on Wednesday night, the Predators needed to bounce back in a big way to not only stay in the playoff hunt but exact some revenge against a long-time rival.
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The final stretch of games will be no cakewalk, but with seven games left to go, getting a win against one of the teams fighting for the final playoff spot is huge not only for the standings but also for team morale. Let’s break it down.
Back And Forth 1st, Steady 2nd
The Predators started trading punches with the Blackhawks in the 1st period as both teams didn’t want to flinch first. The SOG after the 1st period was 11-8 in favor of the Blackhawks, but as usual, Juuse Saros answered the call and kept Chicago off the board.
The back and forth followed the teams out of the dressing room after the first intermission, but the Predators began to open it up after the first five minutes of the 2nd period.
The next 15 minutes would be back and forth, with Saros continuing to hold the team’s lead despite a lot of chances for Chicago.
With just under 5 minutes to go, Ole Ironhook, aka Calle Jarnkrok, found Mikael Granlund, who was then able to make an absolutely BEAUTIFUL pass to Luke Kunin. Kunin finished the play by putting the puck in the back of the net. I mean, just look at it.
Since coming back from injury, Kunin has been RED HOT. He’s put up 11 points (5 goals, 6 assists) in 15 games. Let’s hope he can stay hot against the tougher competition like the Florida Panthers, the Carolina Hurricanes, and the pivotal matchup against the Dallas Stars.
The 3rd Period Seals The Deal
If the Predators played a somewhat slow and conservative game during the first half of the game, they really loosened up and cracked it open in the second half, and by the time they got to the 3rd period, they began to assert their dominance. Through the first 10 minutes of the 3rd period, they held the Blackhawks to only one shot on goal.
The Blackhawks were eventually able to create some chances for themselves in the back half of the 3rd period, but the Predators clamped down with the help of one of the stranger goals scored this season thanks to Erik Haula. Nick Cousins dished to Ellis, who found Haula, and despite the weird angle, Haula was able to find the back of the net.
Just when the Nashville Predators thought they had the game in the bag, the Blackhawks scored a goal that had to be reviewed just to make sure it counted. Both Saros and Mattias Ekholm made herculean efforts defensively, but the puck was able to JUST barely cross the goal line, and the Blackhawks made it 3-1.
Instead of collapsing under the sudden change of fortune, the Predators were able to finish out the game on solid efforts and close out the victory 3-1. Saros had a quick turnaround, saving 28 of 29 shorts for another solid outing.
What’s Next for the Nashville Predators
The Predators will get a very rare Saturday and Sunday off as they prepare for a back-to-back series against the second-place Florida Panthers in Bridgestone Arena. For whatever reason, the Predators have matched up well against Florida, and stealing a game or both games would be crucial to the Predators Playoff hopes.
After the series with the Panthers, the Predators will have three days off in advance of what could be a pivotal matchup against the Dallas Stars. Here’s to hoping Stacheburg himself, Filip Forsberg can make a triumphant return as the team makes its playoff push in the final games of the regular season.
One thing is certain, these final two weeks of games are going to be a WILD ride. Buckle up.