Series Preview: Blackhawks at Predators, January 26-27, 2021

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Series Preview: Blackhawks at Predators, January 26-27, 2021

Chicago Blackhawks

It feels like it’s been longer since the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when the Predators swept the Blackhawks out of the first round on their way to the Stanley Cup Final. And a lot has changed since then, too.

Eventually losing to the Penguins, the Predators looked like a team that was ready to take over the Western Conference. But in reality, they’ve routinely come up short – losing in the Conference Semi-Finals (2018) and Conference Quarter-Finals (2019), before failing to qualify for the playoffs last season (2020).

Both the Blackhawks and Predators are now at much different points in their respective competitive cycles, than they were during that 2017 playoff matchup, but both are trying to fight for a potential return to the postseason this year.

One-Timers

•   Pius Suter scored a hat-trick in his sixth career NHL game on Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings. The Swiss rookie has four points on the season, tied for fourth on the Blackhawks with Dylan Strome and Dominik Kubalík and tied for second in the league with Josh Norris for rookie scoring, two points behind Ty Smith and Kirill Kaprizov. Hopefully the hat-trick is a jumping off point for Suter to build confidence as he plays out his first NHL season.

•   It hasn’t been seen since the start of the 1990-91 season, but the Blackhawks have started the season with a powerplay goal in each of their first six games this season. The league’s second-best powerplay (42.1%) has been flowing through Alex DeBrincat, Patrick Kane, Dylan Strome, Duncan Keith, and Dominik Kubalík who all have at least three powerplay points this season, with DeBrincat leading the way with four points. Nashville has the second-worst penalty-kill (55.0%) in the NHL this season and Chicago will look to exploit that matchup in this opening two-game series.

•   The Predators are on an NHL-worst 74-for-501 (14.8%) stretch on the powerplay since the beginning of the 2018-19 season. While we griped about the Blackhawks powerplay performance over the past few seasons, Chicago has an 89-for-474 (18.8%) stretch over the same amount of time, ranking 20th in the league. Probably helped out by their 8-for-19 start to this season. Even though the Predators have struggled to convert on the man-advantage, Chicago needs to work on staying out of the penalty box after taking ten penalties against the Red Wings on Sunday.

Puck Drops and Broadcast Info

•   Tuesday, January 26 at 7 p.m. CT
TV: NBCSCH, FS-TN
Radio: WGN 720 AM

•   Wednesday, January 27 at 6:30 p.m. CT
TV: NBCSN
Radio: WGN 720 AM

Expected Lineups

Blackhawks (2-3-1, 5 pts)

DeBrincat – Suter – Kane
Kubalík – Strome – Kurashev
Janmark – Söderberg– Shaw
Hagel – Kämpf – Carpenter

Keith – Murphy
De Haan – Mitchell
Zadorov – Boqvist

Lankinen / Subban / Delia

Predators (2-3-0, 4 pts)

Forsberg – Johansen – Arvidsson
Granlund – Duchene – Kunin
Cousins – Haula – Sissons
Trenin – Richardson – Grimaldi

Josi – Ellis
Ekholm – Fabbro
Borowiecki – ???
(Taxi Squad: Benning, Tinordi, Harpur)

Saros / Rinne

Tale of the Tape

Powerplay
Blackhawks: 42.1% (2nd)
Predators: 10.0% (27th)

Penalty-Kill
Blackhawks: 72.0% (25th)
Predators: 55.0% (30th)

Faceoffs
Blackhawks: 49.1% (19th)
Predators: 54.2% (5th)

Goals Per Game
Blackhawks: 3.17 (12th)
Predators: 2.40 (27th)

Goals Against Per Game
Blackhawks: 3.83 (29th)
Predators: 3.40 (24th)

Top Scorer
Blackhawks: Patrick Kane (3 Goals, 4 Assists) 7 points
Predators: Viktor Arvidsson (1 Goal, 4 Assists) 5 points

Injury Report

Blackhawks:

Brent Seabrook (IR – Lower Back)
Zack Smith (IR – Back)
Kirby Dach (LTIR – Out 4-5 months – Wrist)
Alex Nylander (LTIR – Out 4-6 months – Knee)
Jonathan Toews (LTIR – Illness)

Predators: 

Calle Järnkrok (IR – Undisclosed – Day-to-day)
Luca Sbisa (IR – Upper Body)

Keep An Eye Out For

Blackhawks Have A Starting Goaltender Now. Kevin Lankinen took the reins of the starting goaltender position over his last three starts with the Blackhawks. The 25-year-old Finnish rookie has been in net for all five points in the standings for the Blackhawks, going 2-0-1 to start his NHL career. Lankinen is one of three rookie goalies this season to win an NHL game, his .909 save percentage ranks third among NHL rookies and his 2.63 GAA ranks second. Collin Delia and Malcolm Subban figure to still get starts soon to prove they are both better than their sub-.900 save percentages and trio of five-goals allowed starts say, but for now, Lankinen is the hot hand for Chicago.

Predators Need More From Top Centers. Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene, the one-two punch down the middle for the Predators have been underwhelming to start the season. In five games, the duo have two assists each and have yet to net their first goals of the season. The top two used centermen haven’t done much to start the year to live up to their combined $16M AAV price tag. If the Predators are going to have success against a Blackhawks team that is gaining confidence in its offensive attack, Johansen and Duchene are going to have to step-up to off-set Chicago.



Author: Mario Tirabassi

Mario Tirabassi is a writer for Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Mario_Tirabassi.