Chicago, IL — The best offence is a good defense! I know what your thinking that is not how the saying goes. It would be if you were Nashville’s head coach Barry Trotz. Nashville is all about the defense and their head coach is a firm believer in this philosophy and why not it has worked for Nashville for years.
Ever since the lockout season this team has consistently made the playoffs every year for the past six out of seven years and they have done so based on their D. This makes them a formidable opponent and one not to be taken lightly. They are another Central divisional foe for our Blackhawks and one in the hunt every year. The Hawks must face them like the Red Wings who I wrote about in Part I six times each season.
While the rivalry between the Hawks and Preds do not go back that far since Nashville was an expansion club that started playing in the league in 1998 it has been a thrilling one particularly for Hawks fans. Surprisingly these two clubs have only meet one time in the playoffs during the 2010 year but what a meeting it was.
As a Blackhawks’ fan who can forget that electrifying game 5 at the United Center. When behind 4-3 and time ticking down Marion Hossa committed a penalty. The Hawks were shorthanded with only a minute or so left in the game. Times were desperate if you were a Hawks fan and if you were a Predators fan I’m sure they were punching their tickets to the next round. Then the heartbreaker of not only the ladies, but of NHL fans everywhere outside of Chicago showed up. You know his name the “Kaner”. With only 13 seconds left Patrick Kane scored a shorty to send the game into OT. At that point everyone who follows the Indianhead and wears the red, white and black knew the Blackhawks would not only win this game but was surrounded with mystique and magic that would break a 49 year drought and bring Chicago a Stanley Cup. It was also only fitting that it was Hossa who had just stepped on the ice score the game winning goal. Ah the memories but this is in the past and we need to look to the future and the 2011 campaign these two adversaries.
The Nashville Predators are not just solid as a rock on defense they are hard as diamonds on defense. With Pekka Rinne in goal and Shea Weber or Ryan Suter as defensemen in front of Rinne it is no surprise this is the teams strength. The Predators ranked 3rd overall in total team defense with a 2.32 GAA.1 They also ranked 5th overall in the NHL on their PK with 84.9%. Defense is definitely not their weakness. What is? Their offence or lack there of.
With their offence being 22nd overall in the league Nashville needed to improve significantly in this area.1 Their power play was 26th in the league with a 15.2% or maybe it should have been called powerless play. 15.2% are you kidding? The Hawks who might have a weakness with committing too many penalties this year will not be intimated with how weak the Predators PP was, but did the Predators improve in these areas?
In the off-season however it is questionable that they did. In fact they may have gotten worse with the departures of Ward, Franson and Sullivan which will put more pressure on the remaining forwards David Legwand and Martin Erat. To add to it the Predators could have cap problems at the end of this year with Rinne, Suter & Weber all becoming free agents.
In 2010 the Predators and the Blackhawks actually won the same amount of games 44. The Preds had more OT games and the Hawks had more losses thus the 2 point differential between these two clubs. 2 This in my opinion does not bode so well for Nashville because the Blackhawks did not have their best year and yet they were very close to the Preds in the Central standings. While Nashville did not improve in the off-season the Hawks did. Still I see Nashville making the playoffs again and you never know once you get into the playoffs.
Nashville is a very good home team traditionally but just average on the road. This is a little surprising as Nashville does not have the best attendance records and ranks 22nd in the NHL.1 Watch out Nashville you may lose your team or at the very least Blackhawks fans will fill your stadium if your not careful. Outside of one early meeting in October the majority of the games between the Predators and the Hawks will be at the end of the season which could decide where in the Central Division standings these two teams fall. Barring any significant injuries I see the Blackhawks besting this rivalry this year.
Nashville is a good foe but their rivalry with the Hawks isn’t as intense as with Detroit. I see the rivalry with the Predators comparable to your annoying younger brother always getting in your way. They don’t stop you from doing what you want they just make it a little bit more difficult and they tax your nerves. They are always threatening you with telling mom. You can deal with them in two ways; either annoy your baby brother back, or simply ignore them and go along your merry way. “The younger brother must help to pay for the pleasures of the elder.” ~Jane Austen, Mansfield Park
There is a reason why the proverbial saying is not the best offence is a good defense but rather the “best defense is a good offence” and Nashville simply does not have enough fire power or speed to run with the Hawks. They will frustrate the Hawks with their between the blue lines defense, but in the end the Hawks firepower will be too much for the Preds but they will give them a run for their money. Nashville is known as the country music capital– Music City but Chicago is the home of the Blues and somehow with the Blackhawks hunger and motivation back, I think they will be having the Predators this year singing the Blues.
1 Stats taken from the Hockey News Yearbook magazine the 2011-12 guide.
2 taken from NHL website – www. NHL.com