The Nashville Predators had been the best team in the Western Conference for most of the season but they slumped down the stretch and will now face a tough first-round matchup as a result. Look for the Blackhawks to cash in on the NHL betting lines in this one.
The Chicago Blackhawks Can Win This Series Because…
The Predators just aren’t the same team they were before Pekka Rinne was injured. Nashville started the year 29-9-4 and was in the running for the Presidents’ Trophy until Rinne went down. From there, the team finished up just 18-16-6. Honing in specifically on Rinne, he posted a .931 save percentage and 1.96 GAA before the All-Star break but those numbers rose to 2.48 and .911 afterwards. Clearly, something went amiss. On a more short-term scale, the Preds enter the Stanley Cup Playoffs on a real downer as they’ve lost six straight. Earlier in the season, they had been one of the better defensive teams in the league but they’ve given up at least three goals in seven straight games while allowing an average of 4.0 per outing in that span.
Beyond that, the Blackhawks drew the absolute worst first-round matchup they could possibly ask for. The Blackhawks are more experienced than them, they have equally as good defense but their offense is way better. Beyond that, the Blackhawks won three out of the four meetings this season and Chicago’s all three wins came before Rinne’s injury when Nashville was better.
The Predators are a sinking ship right now and the Blackhawks are going to make sure they go down in Round 1.
The Nashville Predators Can Win This Series Because…
The Blackhawks aren’t invincible. NHL odds makers saw that Chicago also slumped down the stretch of the season, losing four straight games. Their offense has disappeared as they’ve tallied just five goals in those four contests. While they are known as an offense-oriented team, that hasn’t been the case this year. Since the All-Star break, only four teams scored less goals per game than the Blackhawks 2.23 goals (New Jersey, Buffalo, Toronto and Arizona). Beyond that, the Blackhawks are without Patrick Kane, who was leading the NHL in points before he went down. Sure, the Blackhawks are among the favorites to win the Stanley Cup but something looks amiss with this team.
Also, Chicago started the year playing very well against teams above .500 but down the stretch of the season, they were just 8-8 in their last 16 in that scenario. That’s a concern.
Nashville has home-ice advantage in this series, which could prove to be quite important, as those who making NHL picks know. Their 28 home wins were the most in the Western Conference this season and that extra game in front of their home fans is going to come in handy. While most are writing off the Predators, they are going to be very competitive in this series.
While both teams enter the playoffs on losing streaks, the Predators' fall from grace is more concerning. They simply haven’t been the same team since Rinne’s injury and he hasn’t been the same player. They are giving up goals all over the place and they didn’t play well against Chicago this season. They also don’t have as much savvy or experience, which is a concern. Most signs point to the Blackhawks here, so take them to edge the Preds and win this in six.
NHL Pick: Blackhawks -120 at The Greek