(In my best Jim Mora voice) We’re talking about playoffs?
The Predators will complete their back-to-back with the Blackhawks tonight in a game with heavy playoff implications. Who should you be watching, what are the storylines, and how does tonight impact the future of this team? All that below.
After a long and winding road, the Nashville Predators are a win over the Blackhawks away from holding a playoff spot. A victory tonight will also take Nashville over the .500 mark for the first time since early February. While many obstacles stand in the way of the Preds holding onto the fourth seed in the Central Division (IE the Wild Card spot), they’ll have a chance to further strengthen their grasp with their approaching series against the Stars.
Nashville enters tonight coming off of one of their best performances of the year. The Blackhawks were throttled up until Mikael Granlund’s third period goal put Nashville up 3-1. John Hynes and co. started to turtle a bit afterwards, but the Preds did such a spectacular job of clearing pucks from the front of the net that it ultimately didn’t matter much. The Predators will look to maintain their recipe for success: low to high passing, a tenacious forecheck, and aggressive gaps on opposing zone entries.
The Hawks will get their second game from Kirby Dach of the season. The young counterman looked a bit uncomfortable in his first game back, getting overwhelmed by Nashville’s speed numerous times. After that rough adjustment, it wouldn’t be surprising for him to bounce back with a better performance today. In net for Chicago, we’ll probably see Malcolm Subban. The younger brother of Pernell-Karl hasn’t had the best year by the numbers, but he’s an adequate enough goalie for an NHL team and won’t be sub-replacement enough to hand the game to the Predators.
The other dangerous pair for Nashville to deal with will be Philipp Kurashev and Pius Suter, the standout rookies on this Blackhawks roster. Suter in particular had a dangerous outing last night, leading all players in ixG while potting a tally in the second period. Keep an eye on how the Predators key in on him tonight defensively.
Three Big Things
- Repeat last night’s showing. The energy, speed and execution that I’ve been waiting for was all there. If Nashville wants to lock up a Wild Card spot, it’s simply a matter of producing that kind of effort on a consistent basis.
- If Rinne is in net, how will he look? It’s been a while since Pekka has gotten a start, and in the meantime the Predators have been riding their hot streak on the back of Juuse Saros. Will having a different goalie who isn’t posting a .960 save percentage change the outcome of this game?
- Stay out of the box. The penalty kill was excellent last night, but it’s tempting fate to continue to give Chicago the man advantage given how deadly that unit has been. Two penalties isn’t anything serious to worry about, but the Predators have been prone to random “six penalties out of nowhere” games throughout the season, so it’s not something to be complacent about.
I’m back on a Sturgill kick.
Happy gameday everybody, and as always, go Preds.