Tonight, a tougher match up comes town in the form of the hottest team in the league, the Blackhawks. Chicago has won 11 in a row and have no signs of slowing down.
The Chicago Blackhawks
Well, there isn't much that needs to be said here considering we just played this team a week ago. The Blackhawks are on fire and seem to get better and better with each game. They've won 11 in a row, and look to extend that streak tonight.
The last time the Hawks were in town, the Predators had to contend with another streak as well. At that time, it was Patrick Kane's point streak. Even though that's long since ended, he is still producing at a ridiculous pace. He continues to lead the league in points, goals, and assists (29G, 40A, 69P). Whenever Kane is on the ice, the Hawks create chaos in the offensive zone.
Along with Kane, Artemi Panarin has been a pleasant surprise for Chicago. The rookie sensation is second on the team with 43 points, and is benefiting from playing on the same line with Kane. The Kane, Panarin line has definitely been one of the more dangerous in the league this season.
We all know the Blackhawks can score goals, but their biggest question was if they could keep them out of their own net. Corey Crawford and Scott Darling have played exceptionally well this year. Crawford has been one of the main reasons why the Hawks are on this 11 game win streak right now. In his last five games, Crawford has been averaging a 1.80 GAA and a .949 SV%. Let's not forget, Nashville was apart of that five game stretch for Crawford.
We know what the Blackhawks are going to bring to the table tonight. The Predators have to be prepared for the onslaught.
The Nashville Predators
The Predators couldn't have gotten a win at a better time, and it definitely makes it sweeter that it was a shutout against Minnesota. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done to get this ship back on the right track, but a win of that magnitude, in front of the home crowd sure does help.
I can't say it enough, but Ryan Johansen has been an absolute monster since coming over to the Predators. In his five games with Nashville, he has posted seven points, and two multi-point games. And if that doesn't get you excited about this kid, than this will (Thanks to NHL.com):
"That was really cool," Johansen said of the reception he received from the sellout crowd. "I have a great opportunity here to come into a great hockey team who's in a pretty good position right now in the playoff hunt. It's all about winning. My first impression of all of the guys and just the people in the organization and a place for my family to come, it seems like there's no better place to win a championship. Just excited for the future."
What's also exciting is the fact that Joey's line of him, James Neal, and Kevin Fiala have really started to build some chemistry. It's only a matter of time before that line becomes one of the best in the National Hockey League.
One of the bigger questions surrounding the Predators coming into tonight's game is who will start in between the pipes. It's hard to justify sitting a guy like Pekka Rinne, but something is clearly off with him. He hasn't played to his full capabilities lately, and is letting in goals that should be routine saves. Carter Hutton, on the other hand, has proven that he has improved this year. I know it is a smaller sample size than Rinne's, but in the seven games Hutton has played in, he has posted a 2.55 GAA and a .910 SV%. Both of those are currently better than Rinne's. Hutton is also coming off of a shutout win. It's always hard to sit a guy who is hot as well. It will definitely be interesting to see which direction the Predators go in for tonight's game.
Reasons To Watch
- Any time I get to watch a Chicago streak end, I am all for it. Hopefully the Predators can replicate the last 5-1 beating.
- As mentioned before, the Neal-Johansen-Fiala line has been really exciting to watch. I expect some big things from them tonight
- Whether it's Rinne or Hutton in net, I think Laviolette got his message across. No one's starting position is safe. I think we will see a good goaltending performance tonight, regardless of who is in the net for Nashville
Drink Of Choice For Game Time
I am going to be enjoying a local brew from Nashville this evening. I'll be drinking Yazoo Gerst tonight.
Sights And Sounds
The game will be on NBCSN tonight. Puck drops at 7:00 pm CST. Don't forget you can also stream it on your phone, tablet, Apple TV or other select devices by using the NBC Live Extra App. You can also pull it up on your computer by clicking here.