Tonight the Nashville Predators (46-29-6) host the Chicago Blackhawks (36-33-12) in the regular season finale. While the Blackhawks have nothing left but their pride to play for, the Predators have a chance to win the Central Division. With a win of any fashion, be it in regulation, overtime, or a shootout, the Predators will have 100 points while the current second-place Winnipeg Jets will at most have 99.
Given the history between the Predators and Blackhawks, it is fitting that the Predators would have them as their last hurdle to the Central Division title. Can the Predators do it and hang another banner in Bridgestone Arena?
The Chicago Blackhawks
Missing the playoffs and finishing dead last in the Central Division for the second year in a row, the Blackhawks’ season has been a failure by all accounts. That’s not to say that the Blackhawks didn’t try; Patrick Kane had another phenomenal season, Jonathan Toews has his highest-scoring season of his career, and Alex DeBrincat has more than introduced himself to the NHL with 74 points in 80 games this sophomore season.
The issue for the Blackhawks is that all the players that I listed are forwards.
Akin to former Colorado Avalanche teams this decade, the Blackhawks have very little going for them on defense. Duncan Keith is aging; Niklas Hjalmarsson, underrated and unappreciated, was traded to Arizona. Brent Seabrook’s contract looks worse every game in which he dresses.
Finally, Corey Crawford only played half of the season after recovering from his vertigo and before suffering another concussion. Who did the Blackhawks sign to provide consistency in net? Cam Ward, the epitome of inconsistency.
A brutish unwillingness by General Manager Stan Bowman to address his teams’ weaknesses, a pompousness and false sense of invincibility, is how these Blackhawks have fallen. A classic Shakespearean tale, Bowman’s hubris is why, despite the phenomenal forwards, the Blackhawks play for nothing tonight.
The Nashville Predators
Somehow, someway, the Predators enter game 82 of the regular season with a chance to win the Central Division.
This season has been very brutal for the Predators. Multiple problems have plagued the team all season long, especially the power play and defensive zone communication. Waves of losses crashed over the team and numerous injuries have plagued the team. Regardless of who wins the Central Division tomorrow, the winner will have the lowest point total of a Central Division champion since the NHL realignment in 2013 took place.
Nonetheless, some players have shone this season for the Predators. While not being at the same Vezina caliber as last season, Pekka Rinne has been an anchor for this team. Ryan Johansen has continued to round out his game and has mastered the subtle fundamentals of it, especially simple mechanics like footwork and puck protection. Finally, Viktor Arvidsson is only one goal away from setting the Nashville Predators’ single-season goalscoring record. Arvidsson currently sits with 33 goals, tied with Filip Forsberg and Jason Arnott. One goal against the Blackhawks means that Arvidsson breaks the tie.
Yes, this has not been the smoothest of seasons for the Predators. They have flaws that are okay to critique. This is not a perfect team. However, at the end of the night, they could still be Central Division champions, which we can all still celebrate.
Reasons to Watch
- The Predators could win the division tonight.
- Who better to beat en route to that division title than the Blackhawks?
- Some scoring records are on the line tonight. Will Arvidsson score a goal and set the Predators’ single-season goalscoring record?
Each year, my college hockey team has a “family reunion” of sorts and plays in USA Hockey’s Labatt Blue Tournament here in Columbus. We play right before the Predators game, so I actually won’t have a Predators pregame meal. Unless water and carbohydrate powder counts.
Sights and Sounds
The game is in Bridgestone Arena at 7:00 Central. Fox Sports Tennessee will broadcast the game while 102.5 The Game will carry the game on the air.