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|
|2nd Wildcard||Seeding||1st Central|
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|
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.
|Ryan Johansen||47||Assists||55||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 Possession Leaders (ES, min 200 minutes)|
|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.
|Power Play||Penalty Kill|
|PPG For||SHG Against||PPG Against||SHG For|
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?
|Pekka Rinne||Jusse Saros||Corey Crawford||Scott Darling|
|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.
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.