With the Chicago Blackhawks rolling into town, it's clear the Central Division gauntlet isn't getting any easier. But it will get a looooot more drunk. With all of their awesome fans in tow, we will get to see yet another top of the division matchup on the ice. You just may have to push aside the drunks in order to actually SEE the ice.
The Chicago Blackhawks
It's been a while since we've seen the Hawks and boy have they been busy. Since the Preds won 3-2 on October 23rd, the Blackhawks are 12-7-0 in 19 games, but probably more importantly they've won five straight games, beating the Blues, Kings, Ducks, Avalanche and Canadiens. They are starting to pick up speed, and we all know that when this team gets momentum they are hard to stop.
Scoring at 3.00 goals per game, good for 7th in the league, the Blackhawks offense is strong, quick, and talented. Patrick Kane leads the way with 25 points, but this team is too deep to simply key in on one player. There's Jonathan Toews with 10g-10a, Kris Versteeg with 8g-13a, Brad Richards with 6g-11a... oh, and they still have Marian Hossa. They score from the blue line as well, with Duncan Keith leading the way among defensemen with 5g-11a.
Speaking of defense, they lead the league in it, only allowing 1.96 goals per game (Nashville is 2nd, by the way). And they've done this all while the goalkeeper position is a bit of a roundtable, with Corey Crawford, Antti Raanta, and Scott Darling all sharing the load. The Hawks will need Corey Crawford to return from injury in order to truly dominate on defense, but for the time being I would imagine leading the league in defense is probably adequate for Joel Quenneville.
Speaking of Crawford, it would be remiss of me not to slather on some shame for the Hawks goaltender because he injured himself at a Rise Against concert. It wasn't enough for him to be a goaltender for one of the most hated teams in the league, he had to also be a fan of a terrible "punk rock" band from the same city. Aside from being a fan of a phony, lame excuse for a punk rock band (Rise Against is a punk rock band just like Rich Clune is a scoring prospect), he also injured himself by "missing a step" as he was leaving, whatever that means.
With that in mind, here are some equally shameful injuries that we would never want a Nashville Predator to admit to:
- Pekka Rinne dropping a banana daiquiri on his foot while attending a Gilligan's Island themed Christmas party
- Filip Forsberg straining his forearms while frantically shuffling through discount romance novels at McKay Used Books
- Shea Weber burning his hand on a George Foreman grill while cooking "Steak-Umms"
- James Neal pulling a neck muscle while trying to stay awake during an all night World Of Warcraft session.
- Seth Jones getting an infection from a scrape suffered during a Hunger Games reenactment.
If you've been paying attention at all, you have to agree: this team seems different from any other Predators team in history. Among all the things that "seem different" about this team is the passing. While the goal-tending, goal-scoring, and offensive depth are all headline news, the team's improved passing cannot be understated. Part of that seems to come from an insane chemistry that is bubbling in our top line of Neal, Forsberg and Ribeiro and the gritty second line of Wilson, Jarnkrok, and Smith. But it also seems like we are attempting (and connecting) on longer, more difficult passes.
For example, in the game Thursday vs. the Blues, take a look at two passes that lead to goals. First the 3rd goal of the game, Mike Ribeiro off the sick pass from James Neal:
Just a one-time, through the slot, between two defenders, out of the goalie's reach pass. Ho hum. And then there's this pass, which lead to the game winning goal by Wilson:
Don't ignore Wilson's role in making this pass look great, as he realized Alex Pietrangelo was sucked up in the offensive zone and there was a seam down the middle of the ice. But that pass from Josi. Go watch the video of it here (around the 0:03 mark) and listen to the sound that pass makes. Doesn't get more tape-to-tape than that!
In my 15+ years as a Preds fan, I don't remember us being such a good passing team. Or at least a team that made so many incredible highlight reel passes. Like I said, this team just seems different.
Reasons To Watch
- There was a sighting of a "Scoresberg" jersey at the game on Thursday. Watch for it...
- Two guys that have been playing out of their minds and deserve your attention: Mike Ribeiro and Colin Wilson
- I'm calling it: Shea Weber with the Gordie Howe hat trick. Only question is who will he go toe-to-toe with?
Pre-game Music For Your Listening
I mean, just listen to this garbage...
Finally, Some Important Details
Puck drops at 6pm! Early Saturday evening start. TV will be FS-TN and radio will be 102.5 The Game!