Who has the upper hand in the fascinating first round series between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Nashville Predators?
The 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs will have some excellent series in the first round. On paper, none of them seem as great as the one between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Nashville Predators. This is the second time in three postseasons fans have seen the two underrated rivals go at it in April.
Chicago enters the series as the top seed in the Western Conference. Though they had a very rough start, they’ve been one of the top teams in the NHL since the start of 2017. Their 58 points in 43 games ranks third in the league, trailing only the Washington Capitals and Anaheim Ducks. The Hawks will have the advantage on offense. Jonathan Toews remains one of the league’s best two-way centers. While his production isn’t up to par with Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid, it’s hard to overlook his impressive postseason performances.
Meanwhile, the Nashville Predators have the advantage on the blue line. Ryan Ellis, P.K. Subban, Roman Josi and Mattias Ekholm give the Preds one of the deepest defense cores in the league. After struggling early, Nashville is surging going into the postseason, picking up 58 points in their last 46 games. They will rely heavily on Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, James Neal and Viktor Arvidsson to lead their offense. Pekka Rinne has been playing well lately, but hasn’t had good luck in the postseason. This must change for the Predators to upset the Hawks.
Nashville has been playing extremely good hockey lately, even if the results don’t show it. They’re limiting scoring chances against and maximizing their own scoring chances. However, the Predators are one of the worst teams in the NHL on the road while Chicago is one of the best at home.
Pick: Blackhawks in 7