Season Series: Blackhawks 4-2-0
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Back when Jeremy Roenick and Eddy Belfour were young and on the Chicago BlackHawks, I really enjoyed watching them play but in the 2000’s they had hit a stand still and were completely horrible. What they were doing was exactly what they needed to do to put themselves in the position they are today. All those years that you wished you weren’t a Blackhawk fan are long gone as young phenoms Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Kris Versteeg, Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien have taken over and turned Chicago back into the fun and flashy team they were in the early 90’s. Also note, Marian Hossa suffered some bumps and bruises to finish the season and won’t be 100%. The Blackhawks opened up the season with three straight losses, but never surrendered three straight again until they did twice to end off the month of March losing 7-of-10. They got back to their winning ways to finish of the season in April and locked up the 2nd seed in the Western conference which puts them against Nashville Predators.
The Blackhawks are a young and quick team but they are looking for a franchise goalie they could stick with for years. When they picked up Cristobal Huet they were hoping they had found the gem they were looking for but its been Antti Niemi who had had much better stats. Huet has playedmore games but once they started playing Niemi, he has put up a better save percentage by approximately 0.3 points and his goals against is just under a half goal per game better. If Niemi can handle the pressure in the playoffs as well all the otheryoung players building on the experience of getting to the Conference Final last year, Chicago may just be in the Stanley Cup Final. But much like San Jose, question marks will remain around goaltending until at least a series into the playoffs but I don’t expect the Predators to give Chicago much of a battle.
If you take the year of the lockout out of the picture, the Nashville Predators have clinched a playoff berth in 4 of the last 5 years (last season they didn’t) but unfortunately for the team, the organization and their fans, every time they get to the playoffs they make an early exit in the first round, twice to the Red Wings, and twice to the Sharks. If you live on the east-coast (like us at LDU), you don’t generally see teams like Nashville, Columbus, Anaheim or Phoenix play and due to it, I will admit, I don’t know the Nashville Predators as well as I should but if history tells us anything, they will probably bow out of the playoffs early right? Don’t be so sure… the Predators are filled with with a roster of players who get the job done night-in-night-out. Unfortunately Patrik Hornqvist, their leading scorer was banged up in the last couple games in the season and it’s unsure how much it will effect him (don’t expect much out of Nashville’s camp either on his status).
Other than Hornqvist, you have Steve Sullivan, Martin Erat, Jason Arnott, J.P Dumont and Marcel Goc, who are all exactly what I said, middle-on-the-road players who gel extremely well together and win games. The Preds have a solid defence lead by Shea Weber and Ryan Suter with Dan Hamhuis and Francois Boullion as the 2nd line. The biggest surprise for Nashville this year has been the play of their keeper Pekka Rinne who split time early with Dan Ellis but once the Predators front office realized it was Rinne who was winning them games, they’ve stuck with him as much as they can ever since. Even if the Predators are better than years past, I do not have enough confidence in them to take them over the young dynamic Chicago Blackhawks.
TheCoach’s Pick: BLACKHAWKS in FIVE