The Nashville Predators finish up a back to back with the Blackhawks tonight, in Chicago. As Alex mentioned in his preview yesterday, these teams are very different than the teams we were accustomed to seeing last year.
The Blackhawks have the usual crew of players in tact, but they also have quite a few players that are unknown to the hockey world as of now. The one thing that is certain, though, with Chicago is that the new guys will find a way to fit in to the system and be productive. They have proven they can do it in the past, and I wouldn't expect anything less from them this year as well.
The Predators have become must see TV in the NHL. Last night's 3-2 win in Nashville all but proved that they now boast one of the most dynamic defensive groups in the league. But Nashville also has a very deep team on all fronts. As long as everyone can stay healthy and perform to their abilities, it will be a good season for the Preds.
The Chicago Blackhawks
As I mentioned before, the Blackhawks have the usual suspects still in tact. The team is still led by captain Jonathan Toews, and reigning Hart Trophy winner in Patrick Kane. Chicago is also led on the back end by a veteran group of defenders. Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Niklas Hjalmarsson look to continue to set the pace for the Blackhawks on defense.
Let's also not forget the addition of Brian Campbell in the offseason. The move brought some much needed depth to a defensive corp, that outside of the three guys I mentioned above, there wasn't much reliability or consistency. Offensively, Campbell is only averaging a little more than 30 points per season since the 2012-2013 campaign. Chicago didn't get him for his offensive production, or lack thereof, they got him for his veteran presence come playoff time. That type of leadership in the locker room can never be valued enough.
The Blackhawks also brought back their goalie tandem from last year. Corey Crawford and Scott Darling will be steering the ship for Chicago all season long. Crawford is coming off of a year that showed just how consistent he has been over the past few year. Just look at his numbers below.
Crawford's number are steady across the board. His goals against average has virtually been the same over the last three seasons, and his save percentage has actually increased a bit. This is the type of consistency that the Blackhawks are hoping they can get from their goaltending all year long.
The Nashville Predators
I mean can we really say enough here? The excitement level around Smashville is at an all time high for this team. The players are not the only people in town with high expectations for this squad, this season. We all know the story lines here. The Predators will undoubtedly be must see television this season for all fans.
The biggest reason for all this hype is newly acquired defenseman, P.K. Subban. Subban is the perfect fit for Peter Laviolette's puck possession style of play. He is a player that can quite frankly create chances from anywhere on the ice really. Subban is the true definition of a game changer in this league. He is going to make it tough on a lot of defenses this year, and it will be a lot of fun to watch.
Let's also not forget about the arrival of Kevin Fiala. As Alex mentioned yesterday, we will all be able to see the basic observations for Fiala. He is fast, like real fast. What makes Fiala intriguing though is his progression from last season. He had a brief stint with the club in the middle of the season, but it didn't really translate into the success we all though it would. I am looking forward to see how he has grown his game over the past year. One this is for certain. He will get plenty of chances playing alongside Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg.
Reasons To Watch
- Roman Josi and Subban are going to be absolutely entertaining to watch out there. You can go head to expect them to be in almost every reason to watch segment. Even a casual hockey fan can get on board with watching these two guys play.
- The third line. For me, the Preds' third line is crucial to the success of this team in the long run. If they can be productive and contribute to the offense, it will take a lot of pressure of of guys like Forsberg, Johansen, and James Neal.
- Why would you ever pass up the opportunity to watch drunk Blackhawk fans potentially become irate because their team is losing? Or maybe they will just be passed out before the game starts. Either way, it should be fun to watch.
Drink Of Choice For Game Time
I am going to stick with something semi local to the Chicago area tonight. I will be enjoying a nice chilled Lagunitas Stoopid Wit.
Sights And Sounds
You can catch the game on FS-TN and listen to it on 102.5 The Game. Puck drops at 7:30 pm.