NHL Stanley Cup Round 1 Western Conference Preview: Nashville Predators vs Chicago Blackhawks

The western conference is the one that looks the most lop-sided. You have the conference winners, then everyone else. Chicago will be the team to stop in the west, and it’ll take some doing on recent form.

That said, #becauseitsthecup and all that nonsense, so let’s see what happens.

First up? Nashville.

Western Conference Round One
Nashville Predators Vs Chicago Blackhawks
Standings
16th League 3rd
8th Conference 1st
4th Division 1st
2nd Wildcard Seeding 1st Central
Season Record
41-29-12 94pts Overall 109pts 50-23-9
240 Goals For 244
224 Goals Against 213

If we’re being honest, the Predators are only here because of the rest of a bad bunch, they haven’t regressed as bad as Los Angeles and weren’t quite as hit and miss as Winnipeg. But they’re here, and anything is possible in seven games.

Unfortunately for them, the Hawks have had their number this year.

Record versus opponent
50 63 4 All-time 63 50 4
4 8 0 Playoffs 8 4 0
1 4 0 2016/17 4 1 0

The Hawks lead the overall series, and won out 4-1 in their five games this year. Four from five would be enough to see them progress in the playoffs. Speaking of which, in the two series in which they have met, the Hawks have won both 4-2. The Predators have only won three playoff series in their 18 playing seasons of existence.

Scoring Leaders
Victor Arvidsson
Filip Forsberg
31 Goals 34 Patrick Kane
Ryan Johansen 47 Assists 55 Patrick Kane
Victor Arvidsson
Ryan Johansen
61 Points 89 Patrick Kane
Victor Arvidsson 246 Shots 292 Patrick Kane
Cody McLeod 22.2* Shot % 21.0 Artem Anisimov

*Cody McLeod’s shot percentage while with Nashville.

Nashville only had three players break the 20-goal mark, although 12 had 10+, while the Hawks had six players break 20, but only seven who were in double figures. Nashville’s scoring runs deeper, but the Blackhawks’ scoring players are elite. Artemi Panarin has had himself two good years, and the noted garbage human in the table above continues to score well. They’re going to be tough to stop. But the depth of the Preds could come to play, in which case it’s anyone’s ball game.

Even Strength Team Possession
Unadjusted SZV Adjusted
CF% FF% CF% FF%
Nashville 51.36 50.98 51.47 51.04
Chicago 50.41 49.94 50.32 49.78
Unadjusted Possession Leaders (ES, min 200 minutes)
CF% FF%
D F D F
Nashville PK Subban (54.87) Ryan Johansen (56.39) PK Subban (54.63) Ryan Johansen (55.82)
Chicago Michal Kempny (56.6) Artemi Panarin (54.68) Michal Kempny (56.73) Marcus Kruger (53.57)

Nashville are the better possession team, according to the numbers from Corsica.hockey. Seemingly, Chicago do more with the puck when they have it, but Nashville only scored four less goals than the Hawks in all situations.

Curious stat – only eight Blackhawks players are positive Fenwick players, whereas 14 Preds are. Maybe this isn’t as cut and dry as we thought.

Special Teams
Power Play Penalty Kill
% Rank % Rank
Nashville 18.9 16th 80.9 15th
Chicago 18 19th 77.7 24th
PPG For SHG Against PPG Against SHG For
Nashville 49 6 46 12
Chicago 42 7 47 1

Two average power plays go head to head, and while the Preds’ penalty kill isn’t outstanding, it is better than the Hawks’. The Preds lead the league in shorthanders, while the Hawks are dead last in that regard too. Maybe another way the Preds could take them down would be to draw penalties?

Goaltending
Nashville Chicago
Pekka Rinne Jusse Saros Corey Crawford Scott Darling
5v5 Sv% 92.92 92.70 93.00 93.74
5v5 HDSv% 78.28 78.12 83.90 86.52
All Sits Sv% 91.80 92.35 91.84 92.36
All Sits HDSv% 77.97 79.37 82.28 84.68

Two very good starters (believe nobody who tells you Corey Crawford isn’t elite), two more than capable backups. Neither team will be afraid to throw in their backups, with Saros robbing several teams this year, and Darling having a cult following for how good he is.

If the games remain 5 on 5 for a sustained amount of time, you can apparently rely on the Hawks duo a little bit more, but it’s negligible. I don’t think we’ll see either team rack up a huge score on any given night.

Prediction

It really is a toss-up over whether you go with league position or look at the numbers. On form, you go Hawks. On numbers, you tend to second-guess that.

If the big players for the Hawks turn up from the start, it’ll be over in five. If it takes a few games for the top line to get going, the Preds might have nicked a couple, and that would make the tie very interesting.

The reward is a second round meeting with either Minnesota or St Louis.

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