Chicago Blackhawks Vs. Nashville Predators
Market WatchThe Blackhawks are -137 favorites for this matchup, and I won't be surprised if that increases with Patrick Kane on track to return. I don't imagine a lot of people like the Predators in this series, but if you do, waiting will yield a better price.
Bottom LineA month ago, I would've confidently taken the Predators over the Blackhawks and not looked back. Now? I'm sticking with the Preds, but I don't feel as good about it anymore.
Pekka Rinne has been a below-average goaltender over the last 20+ games. Once a Hart/Vezina contender, now a massive question mark. Did he and the Preds just lose focus down the stretch after amassing such a comfortable spot in the standings, or is something fundamentally wrong here?
Beyond that, there isn't a whole lot that separates these two teams on paper. They are both above 53% in SAF this year, which ranks among the best puck possession teams in the league. Yes, these Nashville Predators are in fact legit, and they've closed the gap. A lot of it can be credited to their blueline. No one in the league can boast a better top 6 than this group, and their collective two-way ability should be a factor in this series.
And if Kane does indeed play in this series as expected, I think his biggest impact will be on the powerplay, where he'll have more room to work with. I'm a bit surprised he's returning a full month ahead of schedule, and I'm a bit skeptical about how effective he will really be.
I have reservations, but if Rinne is Rinne, I like them to advance to round two. It took a long time, but they finally have what it takes to go toe-to-toe with Chicago.
Pick: Predators ML (+116) (2u)
All first round series predictions