The Chicago Blackhawks clinched the first seed in the western conference this year, finishing with 50 wins and 23 losses.  (50-23-9).  The Blackhawks finished with 109 points and will face the Nashville Predators (41-29-12) in the opening round of the playoffs.  Game 1 is Thursday, April 13, 2017.  The Predators won their opening contest together on October 14th, 3-2, but haven’t beaten Chicago since.  The Blackhawks rolled off 4 straight with their latest win coming on March 4th when the Hawks won 5-3.  The Blackhawks have faced the Predators twice in the playoffs–2010 and 2015.  Both years the Blackhawks went on to win the Cup.

Questions to Ask

How hurt is Artem Anisimov?

Artem was hurt on March 14th with a lower-body injury after he collided with Alexander Radulov.  Anisimov is expected to play in game 1.  Coach Joel Quenneville was asked about Anisimov’s status.

“I don’t know if [there is any] doubt at all.  He’s good to go.”–Joel Quenneville

Anisimov will be back between Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane on the second line.

How will that fourth line play?

Between John Hayden, Jordin Tootoo, and Tanner Kero, the Hawks will need someone to step up on that fourth line to give them that depth in scoring options.  It has happened every time the Hawks have won a Cup.  Who will step up and fill that “captain” spot on the fourth line?

Duncan Keith‘s Minutes

Expect this to be a big focus during the playoffs.  Duncan Keith puts up extraordinary minutes during the playoffs, and it’s expected for him to do it this year as well.  How Keith will impact that defense working with Niklas Hjalmarsson, Johnny Oduya, Brian Campbell, Brent Seabrook, and Trevor Van Riemsdyk remains to be seen but the Blackhawks sit at 11th in Goals against with an average of 2.6

Which Corey Crawford will show up?

Goalie Corey Crawford has had an up and down year, sometimes looking phenomenal and other days, needing Scott Darling to come in to help.  Crawford has been great against the Predators though, posting a .921 save percentage.  Crawford also has a .918 save percentage throughout the 2016-2017 year.  If Crawford struggles, I expect Joel Quenneville to have a very short leash on Corey.

Why Will Nashville Win?

Nashville will win if Corey Crawford struggles in net, and Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson play well.  Nashville can win if Chicago’s scoring woes continue.

Why will Chicago win?

The Chicago Blackhawks have a ton of firepower and can score at will.  The Blackhawks seem to play better in the playoffs, and with the Hawks, young guys contributing, it makes it that much easier for Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Artemi Panarin to score at will.

Final Series:  Chicago in 6


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