Nashville Predators (4-3-2) at Chicago Blackhawks (5-3-2)
RADIO: WGN 720
TV: NBC Sports Chicago, Fox Sports TN
Pekka Rinne (4-1-2, 1.99 GAA, .933 save%)
Corey Crawford (5-3-0, 2.13 GAA, .937 save%)
Nashville 26.3% (6th)
Chicago 15.9% (19th)
Nashville 85.7% (5th)
Chicago 85% (7th)
Corsi For % (5-on-5)
Nashville 52.2% (9th)
Chicago 50.2% (17th)
Records can be deceiving, as the Hawks have a slightly better overall won/loss total than Nashville (with one more game played), but the Preds are better than the Hawks across virtually every statistical category, albeit through only ten games.
As with the 2-1 OT Chicago home victory a few games back, this is an important game for the psyche of two divisional rivals whose bad blood goes back several years—and got worse n the first round of the playoffs last season.
In the previous game this season, the Preds outplayed the Hawks for much of the game, until Chicago turned it on in the latter half of the third period and overtime.
That “late wakeup call” has become a maddening pattern for Chicago this year, and it likely won’t replicate the same result in the second meeting with Nashville tonight. They are too good.
The Hawks have shaken up their lines and pairings a bit, most notably rooie Alex DeBrincat jumps form a completely unproductive third ine to Jonathan Toews’ top line. The Toews line with Richard Panik at RW has been the Hawks’ best line, and one of the league’s best this far this season. Panik moves to left wing on the second line with Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane.
This is a high stakes move for Joel Quenneville. Despite the hype, last year’s OHL scoring king DeBrincat has yet to deliver much this season—and clearly, the coaching staff is trying to put him into position to succeed. I’m not sure his playing style meshes well with Toews and Brandon Saad, who rely heavily on a power cycle game, nor do I think Panik is as good on the left side.
If these lines fail to produce in the next few games, then the chorus suggesting DeBrincat might be better off (for now) in Rockford gets a lot louder. And pressure grows on Quenneville and GM Stan Bowman to find other answers.