Less then ten days after their previous meeting in Nashville, the Predators head north to the United Center to face the Chicago Blackhawks in yet another critical game. Despite arguably outplaying the Blackhawks in their December 29th meeting, the Predators (and Corey Crawford) ended up falling as the Blackhawks escaped with a 3-2 comeback win.
Since then, the Blackhawks managed to lose yet another outdoor game while the Predators crushed the Blues and then promptly proceeded to delete any internal code on how to play hockey. Even in their 6-1 win they were thoroughly outplayed. Injuries may be piling up, but every team is struggling with missing bodies. The good teams power through the adversity. Will the Predators do so tonight?
Although the Blackhawks initially slowed down after beating the Predators on December 29th, they have bounced back in their last two games. Since the last meeting with the Predators, they have split wins with the Carolina Hurricanes and beat Buffalo in overtime. Their only divisional loss since the 29th came to the St. Louis Blues in the Winter Classic, dropping the Blackhawks to 1-4 all-time in outdoor games (can they play outdoors all season? Please?).
Nevertheless, the Blackhawks are playing some stellar hockey. Patrick Kane particularly is on fire with four points in the last two games. Captain Jonathan Toews is also hitting his stride again. Now roughly a month back from his injury, he is a driving force on his line and is also on a two-game point streak. When star players are producing, as is the case with the Blackhawks, wins usually follow. That’s why they are challenging for the division and Nashville is not.
This team need to find a lifeline.
The Predators, despite still being in the Wild Card hunt, are...only in the Wild Card hunt. It has been a bizarre season so far, with Filip Forsberg having a ghastly low shooting percentage that is just starting to rise. Furthermore, a whole ten Predator forwards have a higher Corsi For percentage than Corsi against. In particular, Kevin Fiala’s Corsi For/Against difference is remarkably impressive for a player who has struggled to find a fit in the lineup until the recent swath of injuries hit the Predators lineup.
However, they cannot tie their wins together.
Usually when a team is inconsistent, Corsi is a wonderful indicator. Usually inconsistent teams have pretty bad Corsi percentages. Despite this logic, the Predators have been anything but consistent despite handling teams in terms of possession. Anything that should work has not been working.
Furthermore, the Predators have failed to really generate much momentum in the last three games altogether. Were it not for the utter ineptitude of the Tampa Bay Lightning goaltending and some miraculous work on Pekka Rinne’s part, the Predators would likely have lost that game too.
Sometimes the hockey Gods just chose to spite a team. Unfortunately, this season it has been the Predators. With all of the poor puck luck and injuries, it is easy to find excuses for why the team is not winning. However, truly great teams will power through. This team still has a healthy Roman Josi. Pekka Rinne is playing better than ever. Filip Forsberg is back on track and Ryan Johansen is providing stability on a first line that is in relative flux due to injury. This team still has the tools to win hockey games. They just need to start doing so.
Reasons to Watch
- How do you feel about Corey Crawford after the last game? I’m of the opinion that, if a call is able to change the game, you weren’t winning by enough to say a game was stolen. However, it’d still be a little sweeter than usual to see him embarrassed by the Predators offence on his home ice.
Provided James Neal is in the lineup, I’m still waiting on the rematch of the season opener Neal-Toews fight.Nope, Neal’s out. Thanks a lot for ruining this, hockey gods.
- Come on, who here loves to see the Predators beat the Blackhawks? (Sees swarm of raised hands) Yes, exactly.
Gameday Hockey Lingo Word of the Day
1 A slower skater who can easily be skated around.
Example: “Yeesh with his age, Chara has kind of become a bit of a pylon.”
2 Someone who never plays and sits on the part of the bench separating the forwards and defensemen. May or may not also fit definition 1 above.
Example: “It’s great to see that Fiala is getting a lot of playing time instead of serving as the team pylon!”
Sights And Sounds
The game will be on on FS-TN and you can listen to it on 102.5 The Game. Puck drops at 6:00 pm central.