Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Keys For Blackhawks To Beat Predators

By Randy Holndoner (@bhawkschatter)

The Chicago Blackhawks and the Nashville Predators face off for the third time in the last eight years as their playoff series start tomorrow night in Chicago.

The Blackhawks won the regular season series, three games to one.  Due to the NHL scheduling this year, all four games were played by January 8th.  Both teams have gone through changes since they last met.

Specifically for the Blackhawks, their penalty kill.  They started the season with an historically horrible PK.  The Predators were a big reason for that as they went 5-for-9 on the power play in their first two games against one another.  The Hawks fixed their PK for the second half of the season and finished 24th overall for the season.  That is saying something considering as of October 26th, they had killed just 12 of 26 power play attempts.

So what should we look for this series?

Keys to a Blackhawks series victory
1 - Hot players - In their last 30 games Patrick Kane has 40 pts., Artemi Panarin 30 pts., and Jonathan Toews 30 pts.  Last season, the St. Louis Blues held Kane and Toews to a combined one goal in a 7-game, 1st series loss.  They will have something to prove.

2 - Net Presence - Artem Anisimov returns to the lineup and will provide a big body in front of Predators goaltender, Pekka Rinne.  If they are going to win this series, Anisimov, Tanner Kero, and Richard Panik, will have to be a screen against Rinne.  Also, others like Ryan Hartman, and Jonathan Toews, will need to crash the net for rebounds.  Playoffs are full of ugly goals.  This series will be no different.

3 - Faceoffs - The Blackhawks were ranked 29th in faceoff winning percentage (47.5).  Unless Toews plans on taking every faceoff (54.9), someone will have to step up their game.  If you win the faceoff, you win the puck, the other team can't score.  Especially if the draw is in your zone.

4 - Shots Against - The Blackhawks averaged 31.4 shots against this year.  Not since the 1988-89 season, have the Blackhawks given up so many shots against on average for a season.  That has to stop.  That gives too many chances to the opposition.  You play with fire.  Which leads me to #5.

5 - Defense - The addition of Johnny Oduya at the trade deadline was probably the biggest move the Blackhawks could have made to make a run for the Cup.  Being able to have a foursome of him, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Niklas Hjalmarsson, will be huge.  Not to mention having Brian Campbell available to log long minutes should help the Blackhawks tremendously.

6 - Goaltending - The last line of defense.  Corey Crawford and Scott Darling have seen a ton of rubber thrown at them this year and they combined for a .918 SV%.  Good for 6th in the league.  Crawford will get the nod again this post season and try to bring home a 3rd Stanley Cup.

This won't be an easy task for the Blackhawks, but they should will win this series, 4-2.


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