Two Central Division foes square off Tuesday night in the Music City, as the Nashville Predators (7-3-1, 2nd Central) welcome the Chicago Blackhawks (3-5-2, 7th Central) to town. Chicago snapped its season-long four-game losing streak on Sunday and now looks to string some wins together, while Nashville is currently riding a three-game winning streak of its own.
Here is a preview for Tuesday’s game, which includes odds and a pick.
By the Numbers
Last season for the Blackhawks was defined by explosive offensive performances paired with the NHL’s worst defense. This season, the first full-time season for head coach Jeremy Colliton, Chicago ranks a respectable 13th with three goals allowed per game. There are still issues in regards to shots allowed (32.9, 24th in NHL) and penalty kill (73.3 percent, 26th in NHL), but it’s a step in the right direction.
Ironically, goal-scoring has become a bit of a struggle in the early going. Chicago is 25th in the NHL with an average of 2.5 goals per game. Its power play has also been disappointing, converting only 9.7 percent of its chances (26th in the NHL). But after a 5-1 victory over the Kings on Sunday, the Blackhawks are hoping that was the performance to help spark the offense going forward.
While the Blackhawks struggle with scoring, no team in the league is doing it more than the Predators. Through 11 games, Nashville leads the NHL with 4.09 goals per game, aided by a league-best 12.8 shooting percentage. The Predators have scored at least two goals in every game this season and at least three in all but two games. We’ll see how sustainable this incredible run of goal-scoring is, as their shots on goal and power play are both in the middle of the pack.
Just like they have been for many years, the Predators are a solid defensive group. They are tied with Chicago with three goals allowed per game but are having just 71.4 percent penalty-kill success, one spot behind their opponents in this one. The biggest difference between these clubs on defense is in shots allowed. Nashville is allowing 30.1 shots per game, the ninth-fewest in the league.
What to Watch
When the Blackhawks scored a season-high five goals against the Kings on Sunday, their secondary scorers were at the heart of it. Dylan Strome led the way with two goals, while David Kampf, Alex DeBrincat, and Drake Caggiula also scored. While stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews still require the most attention from opposing clubs, we’ll see if Chicago is once again able to put together a complete offensive effort from all four of its lines.
Nashville is a team that is carried by its defensemen and may need them more than ever for this contest. Forwards Filip Forsberg and Matt Duchene returned to practice on Monday, but their statuses for this game are in doubt. That means Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis, Nashville’s two leading scorers with 13 points each, may be forced once again to pick up any offensive slack should one or both of the forwards be out.
With Robin Lehner starting on Sunday, the Blackhawks will likely turn to two-time Cup winner Corey Crawford to man the net. Crawford has had significant struggles this season, going 1-4-0 with a 3.67 GAA and .888 save percentage. As for the Predators, it will likely be Pekka Rinne in net. The veteran has been spectacular, going 6-0-1 with a 1.98 GAA and .931 save percentage.
Odds and Pick
As expected, the Predators are big favorites at home. Oddsmakers have them at -210 to win against the Blackhawks and extend their win streak to five games.
I tend to agree, so I’m picking the Predators to roll in this one. They have a massive advantage in goal and are a great team at home. I think the Blackhawks will use their speed to their advantage and beat Rinne once or twice, but overall, this game feels like a clear mismatch. Give me the Predators -210.