Stanley Cup Betting Preview: Nashville Predators vs. Chicago Blackhawks
#7 Nashville Predators
(47-29-6, 100 pts)
#2 Chicago Blackhawks
(52-22-8, 112 pts)
How They Got Here: The Predators don’t have the best offensive or defensive team in the world, but they continuously did just enough to win games this year. They stayed out of the penalty box, posting the fewest penalty minutes in the league. Now, they’ll need to step up their game to survive in the playoffs.
Player To Watch: RW Patric Hornqvist led the team in goals this year with 30, but he’s one of just two players that scored more than 50 points on the team all season long. This is effectively the first full year in the NHL for the 23 year old, and he surely didn’t disappoint.
Goalie Outlook: G Pekka Rinne isn’t exactly a household name in the NHL, but he posted 32 wins this year to lead the Predators. At times he has struggled, as demonstrated by his 2.53 GAA, but he also has seven shutouts and several other 1-0 losses in overtime or shootouts to his credit this year.
Key To Victory: It’s tough to see how a team without any real stars can make it in the playoffs, but the key for the Predators is just excelling as a team. Putting together workmanlike performance after workmanlike performance, knowing that there will be days when the stars on the other side of the ice are just better than you are, is the only path to victory.
How They Got Here: Last year was the first time in awhile that there was hockey fever in Chicago, and the Blackhawks are back after coming up just one game shy of having the #1 seed in the postseason. This is one of the youngest and most talented teams in the NHL, and the Windy City knows that it should have a winner for years to come.
Player To Watch: RW Patrick Kane led the Hawks in both goals (30) and assists (58) this season, and he played in all 82 games to boot. He almost never takes penalties, serving just 20 minutes in the sin bin all year long, and he’s one of the fastest rising stars in the NHL.
Goalie Outlook: If there’s a weakness on this team, this is it. G Cristobal Huet was awful at times in the playoffs last year, and his 2.50 GAA isn’t anything to write home about. As a result, expect to see G Antti Niemi play quite a bit, as his 26-11 record, seven shutouts, and 2.25 GAA are significantly stronger.
Key To Victory: Offense, offense, offense. That’s where the Blackhawks made themselves known this season, scoring 271 goals, and that’s where they’re going to have to make their mark in the playoffs as well. If this team continues to light the lamp at a clip of 3.2 goals per game, it will be fine.
The Final Word: Even though the Predators are capable of winning this series, we just don’t see it happening. Look for the Blackhawks to deliver the crushing blow with one of these games in Nashville, and from there, the Predators just stand no chance of winning two games at the United Center, a place where the Blackhawks went 29-8-4 this year.
Blackhawks in 6
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