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NHL Playoff Primer: Predators and Blackhawks at a Glance

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We take a look at how the two rivals stack up through the season and against each other.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The matchup is set. The times are decided. All that's left now is the waiting.

Until then, we can dissect and pick over the performances of both teams this season and how they compared to each other in the regular season. Over the next few days, we'll be breaking down each minute detail of the two teams, including forwards, defensemen, goalies, coaching and special teams. Today, we'll look at the numbers of each squad, and how they performed against each other in the regular season.

Both teams fell backwards into the postseason: Chicago lost four-straight and amassed a 5-5-0 record, while Nashville went 4-4-2 and lost their last six. That being said, they're only separated by two points in the standings, and are evenly match in most of the main categories.

Nashville vs. Chicago
47-25-10 Record 48-26-6
104 Points 102
232 GF 229
2.67 GF/G 2.68
209 GA 189
2.46 GA/G 2.27
24 Diff 40
693 PIM 596
8.5 PIM/G 7.3
16.2 (25th) PP% 17.6 (20th)
80.8 (18th) PK% 83.4 (10th)
48.9 FO% 52

Surprisingly, Nashville has been a slightly better offensive team than Chicago, while the Hawks have prevented more goals. That's probably the opposite of what most expect. Additionally, both teams' power play effectiveness has not been great. The special teams battle could come down to who makes more mistakes on the penalty kill, and Chicago boasts a top-10 PK, which is imperative this time a year. I'll let Kevin Der from Sporting Charts explain:

For a team to have a chance to win Lord Stanley's Cup, they must be successful in the three areas of hockey, even-strength, power play and penalty kill. When it comes to special teams, there is a greater need to be good at penalty killing than on the power play. With the exceptions of the 2011-12 Boston Bruins and 2005-06 Carolina Hurricanes, none of the past 10 Stanley Cup winners ranked lower than 10th in regular season penalty kill percentage.

In looking at the other side of the coin at the analytics, they tell a similar story. Nashville and Chicago through the regular season were both very good teams, though the Blackhawks edge the Predators out just a bit.

Nashville vs. Chicago
53.1 (8th) SACF% 53.7 (4th)
31.2 (3rd) SF60 32.9 (1st)
27.6 (10th) SA60 29.8 (24th)
56.9 (1st) GF% 54.2 (7th)
8.08 (9th) 5v5 Sh% 6.87 (28th)
93.1 (4th) 5v5 Sv% 93.59 (2nd)
101.1 (5th) 5v5 PDO 100.4 (10th)
54.1 (2nd) SCF% 52.5 (10th)

This series could be a lot closer than many people are giving it credit for right now. I worry that Chicago's shooting percentage may skyrocket at any time, but the flip side is their goaltending regressing. Nashville has been pretty fortunate in both regards. Both teams are great at maintaing possession, shooting the puck, and generating scoring chances.

Head-to-head, the Blackhawks took the series with three wins. However, every single game was extremely close, and two went to overtime. Nashville managed a 1-1-2 record.

Head-to-Head
Date Result SOG NSH PP CHI PP NSH Goalie CHI Goalie
Oct 18 @ CHI L, 3-2 (OT) 20-37, CHI 1 for 4 0 for 5 Hutton (.946%) Crawford (.950%)
Oct 23 @ NSH W, 3-2 27-32, CHI 0 for 1 0 for 2 Rinne (.938%) Raanta (.889%)
Dec 6 @ NSH L, 3-1 33-31, NSH 0 for 1 0 for 2 Rinne (.933%) Darling (.970%)
Dec 29 @ CHI L, 5-4 (SO) 42-40, NSH 1 for 5 1 for 5 Rinne (.905%) Crawford (900%)
NSH Leading Scorers CHI Leading Scorers
James Neal - 5 G, 0 A, 5 P Brandon Saad - 2 G, 2 A, 4 P
Colin Wilson - 1 G, 3 A, 4 P Duncan Keith - 0 G, 4 A, 4 P
Mike Ribeiro - 0 G, 3 A, 3 P Bryan Bickell - 1 G, 2 A , 3 P
Filip Forsberg - 0 G, 3 A, 3 P Marian Hossa - 3 G, 0 A, 3 P

Neal was a Hawk killer this year, while Marian Hossa continued his endless torment of the Predators. Look for both of them to be on display as the series gets underway.

Game Highlights

The first game of the year was one Carter Hutton might like to have back. He stood on his head the entire game, but happened to give up one soft goal to Johnny Oduya. Even though he let in shorthanded breakway goal in overtime to Jonathan Toews, it's hard to fault him for letting that one in when his team, you know, let Jonathan Toews have a shorthanded breakaway in overtime.

Ah, yes... the glorious James Neal hat trick. Neal had gotten off to a slow start, with only two goals in his first six game. He surpassed that number in one night, and notched three of his five goals of the series.

Ah yes... the infamous Blackhawks home game in Nashville. Though it was only a one-goal game until Hossa's empty netter, the Predators could hardly find a grove this night. If there is a game that could get you nervous for how Chicago could shut Nashville down, it would be this one. Boys better study plenty of tape from this one.

The last game of the series, and it came at the end of December, right before the Winter Classic. The Preds jumped out to a 3-0 lead, then let Chicago chip away at it until it was gone. (It may have been the first real collapse in the season, and we know how many of those came toward the end.)

But two minutes after Hossa tied it, Neal once again came through and put the Preds ahead. Nashville was just over a minute away from taking home the two points when they allowed another game-tying goal with the goalie pulled. Hawks prevailed in the shootout, and that bitter taste would linger for some time.

Given how close each game has been, how each team has performed all year, and their recent struggles, this could really be anybody's series.