Predators at Blackhawks – NHL Pick for October 27th
With most NHL teams having played at least 10% of their regular-season schedule we are starting to see teams heading in one direction or the other. The Tampa Bay Lightning have asserted themselves as the best in the East. At 9-1-1 their 19 points are much the best league-wide thus far in the young season. That shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise as Andrei Vasilevskiy has taken the starting goalie role and run with it. Also, Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov are off to a historic pace. Each has a point in their first 11-games. The absence of Stamkos for much of last year is why they failed to make the playoffs. What is a surprise? That has to be the Vegas Golden Knights. The expansion franchise is a remarkable 7-1-0 and 2nd in the Pacific division. The Avalanche, Canucks and Devils are teams who selected in the top-5 in last year’s entry draft but are above .500 to start the year. Of course, there are teams off to bad starts as well. The Wild, Rangers and Canadiens were all Cup contenders coming into the year but find themselves below .500. We have 12 teams, 6 games taking the ice Friday so let’s break it all down!
- Nashville Predators (+102) at Chicago Blackhawks (-125)
It’s a rematch of last year’s opening round in the Western Conference. The Blackhawks and their fans would prefer to forget that series. The Predators were dominant sweeping away the Conference’s top team heading into the postseason. Chicago failed to score in the first two games at home and had little pushback throughout the series. The two teams also played earlier this season at the United Centre. Another two periods went by before the Hawks finally scored at home against the Predators. Patrick Sharp’s goal tied it at 1 and Brandon Saad would get Chicago the win in OT.
After their most successful season in franchise history making it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, the Predators have started in a rather mediocre fashion. Their record sits at 4-3-2 good for 10 points. They’ve had a few injury issues to start the year. Ryan Ellis, Yannick Weber and newly acquired Nick Bonino have missed time. A few of their key players have also gotten off to sluggish starts. However, they boast the best core of defenseman in the league and should turn things around soon.
You’re never surprised to see Chicago right near the top of the Western Conference. This team has been a perennial contender for a decade. They did say after the Nashville debacle last season that changes needed to be made. First and foremost, that was bringing back Brandon Saad. In return, they sent young sniper Artemi Panarin to Columbus but Saad brings the veteran toughness they felt they missed last year. Backup goaltender Scott Darling also moved on. That means Corey Crawford may be called upon more often this season. He has never started more than 60 games in a year so there will be pressure on new backup Anton Forsberg. He is 0-0-2 this season.
The Predators are not the flashiest offensive club in the league. They currently rank 24th in the NHL, scoring just 2.6 times a game. Filip Forsberg has lit-the-lamp on the regular this season. He has 7 goals and 12 points in just 9 games. His 31 goals last year were tied for tops on the Preds. That start puts him back on track to a 3rd consecutive 30+ goal season. Victor Arvidsson also scored 31 times last season. This year he is off to a slow start. He has just 3 goals and 5 points in 9 games. Ryan Johansen has yet to score this season. He does have 6 assists but the centreman scored 14 times last year. He also has been a 25+ goal scorer twice in his career.
Chicago is off to a solid start on the offensive side of the puck. They average 3.4 goals a game good for 7th in the league. No surprise that Patrick Kane is leading all Blackhawk skaters in points. The former Art Ross trophy winner has 5 goals and 12 points through 10 games. A nice lift has definitely been Brandon Saad. As mentioned he returned to Chicago in a deal with the Blue Jackets. He has a team-high 6 goals and nice +5 rating. Richard Panik is also enjoying a nice start to his campaign. He is coming off a career-high 22-goals last year and already has scored 5 times in 2017-18. The Power Play has been less than stellar thus far. With the likes of Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith a 20th ranked PP unit can’t sit well with head coach Joel Quenneville.
The Predators have the best group of young top-4 defenseman in the NHL. They are undoubtedly the envy of every GM in the league. Roman Josi, PK Subban, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm would all be a number 1 or 2 defenseman on almost any club. Ellis is out for the next few months but the drop-off shouldn’t be too dramatic. Alexei Emelin came over from the Canadiens in the off-season and is a solid blueliner. Subban, Josi, and Ekholm have contributed 16 points total this season. What’s more concerning is the combined -5 rating. All three of them were plus defenseman in 2016-17. Nonetheless, the entire defense unit is ranked 7th in the NHL allowing just 2.6 goals a game.
Chicago has depended on Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook as their go-to duo on the blueline for the last several seasons. Once again, they lead the team in minutes a game with 25+ and 22+ respectively. They also have pitched-in with 12 combined points. What’s worrisome is their ages. Keith is 34 years old while Seabrook is 32 and there isn’t a ton of young defenseman coming down the pipeline. Nonetheless, in the here and now they are ranked 8th in the league and should be right there all season.
Pekka Rinne has used the momentum he garnered from a nice playoff run last season into a great start in 2017-18. He owns a 1.99 GAA tops for any goalie who has started more than half of their team’s games. He also has a solid .933 save percentage. His record sits at 4-1-2 and is a big reason the Preds are above .500.
It looks like 2017-18 will be all Corey Crawford’s in the Blackhawks’ net. He’s been up to the task in his first 8 starts. His 2.13 GAA is very solid and his .937 save percentage is top-10 in the NHL. As mentioned he’s never made more than 60 starts in a season so we will see if he wears down as the year goes on.
- Filip Forsberg v. Duncan Keith
Forsberg has had a tremendous start to his season. He was able to score the first time these two met this season but was a -1. Keith was able to keep him in check for the most part. Forsberg only managed 3 shots on goal. Keith, on the other hand, was a +1 with 1 assist. He will look for another good night against the Preds prolific goal scorer.
Chicago snapped the curse at home against the Predators last time out. However, it was still a big struggle. Nashville was much the best before Sharp and Saad saved the day. You’ll be getting some nice value on a team that has had the Hawks number of late. I say another low-scoring game. This time the Preds get the 2-points.