Nashville Predators vs. Chicago Blackhawks Preview: Penalty Kill Killing Preds

The two Central rivals finish their home-and-home.

From Windy City to Music City, the Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks will finish the second of their five meetings this season.

Chicago Blackhawks

The second line of Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov, and Patrick Kane feasted on the Predators all Tuesday night. The trio led their team in shots attempted and, though they only scored on an empty net, seemed destined to get a goal. That's something Nashville needs to be wary of tonight. They've been deadly all season.

Teuvo Teravainen has also started finding success while skating on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. It was Turbo's goal 14 seconds into the third period that sealed the deal against the Preds.

But you know this. I know this. The team knows this. Not much has changed since Tuesday's preview, except the Predators are angry with themselves. Considering how last game ended, Nashville should be taking to the ice like bats out of hell.

Nashville Predators

If you asked 100 different Predators fans to list five things that are going wrong with the team, odds are you'd get wildly varying answers. But every single person would have the same two words somewhere in their response: penalty kill.

Nashville's shorthanded unit has been awful for most of the season, and completely horrendous lately. They've given up a power play goal in nine of the last 10 games, going 60% over that span.

The raw numbers speak for themselves: 22 goals allowed during 86 times shorthanded for a kill rate of 74.4% (as of this post), good for 28th in the league. It's not like they are even giving their opponents many opportunities to burn them. Only six teams have been shorthanded fewer times than the Preds, (Colorado, Edmonton, and Tampa Bay are tied with Nashville).

What's wrong? How do you fix it? What needs to change?

None of us really have the answers. Those are questions Kevin McCarthy and the rest of the coaching staff need to figure out, and quick.

On paper, there's nothing inherently bad or good about the PK. Compared to the rest of the teams when shorthanded, Nashville doesn't allow ridiculous amounts of shots against or scoring chances. They're just in the middle of the pack. Now, rate stats may not be the best way to evaluate special teams, especially when it's rated against 60 minutes of play. We've shown a snippet of how the penalty kill decides to set up, but here's another taste.

(Apologies for the misspelling of Loui Eriksson. Spellchecker lumped him in with the likes of Pekka Ring, Viktor Stabling and Anthony Bordello.)

Against the best power play in the league, they leave one of their best shooters WIDE open right in front of the crease. It took the Bruins all of 14 seconds to take advantage of that.

Here is a fantastic look at Andrew Shaw's power play goal on Tuesday, which put the Hawks ahead 2-0:

There is no form to what they are trying to do. If there is, I don't see it or get it. Paul Gaustad and Miikka Salomaki are spinning like dreidels, and every player is chasing the puck rather than trying to focus on maintaining any type of coverage. Because they're chasing, they get the speed wobbles as Chicago deftly works the puck around, and can't recover by the time Shaw shoots.

It's no wonder the team has an 83.2 Sv% on the penalty kill. They may not be giving up more shots or chances than many other teams, but with that type of execution it doesn't matter. The coaching staff is aware this is a problem, so hopefully they make the necessary changes to get back to how they were killing penalties early in the season. It's been working with the power play so far.

The only thing the PK unit is killing is the Preds' momentum. It's costing them games, and is a liability on the ice right now. It's not feasible to ask Nashville to just stop taking penalties, so they must adjust this portion of their game if they want to have success.

The Important Stuff

7 p.m. Nashville start, with viewing on FS-TN and listening on 102.5 The Game.