Everything Else

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RECORDS: Hawks 36-33-12   Predators 46-29-6

PUCK DROP: 7pm

TV: NBCSN Chicago

THIRD MAN INTERNS: On The Forecheck

When the music’s over, turn out the lights…

The Hawks wrap it all up on 2018-2019 tonight, and as mentioned earlier, it doesn’t come with the relief of last year. This team doesn’t deserve any more than it’s got, and the front office certainly doesn’t, but it sure does seem like the Hawks wasted more than most teams than miss the playoffs did.

And now in most ways, this is the worst possible outcome. They didn’t make the playoffs, and they’re nowhere near the top of the draft to get a franchise-turning player. Drafting 11th is really not going to do anyone any good, at least not for next year. It’s the middle. It’s the muck. It’s purgatory.

We’ve already been over what the storylines were yesterday. It’s some’s definite last game with the Hawks. It might be some more important players’ last as well. Do they know it? Do they care? Won’t get our answers for a while. Last night it looked like they did. Quotes before and after the game suggest they do, but their actions on the ice all season tell a different story.

So for the Hawks, it’s just about crossing the last one off the calendar. For the Preds, there’s way more riding on it. They can clinch the division tonight with any kind of win.  A loss in extra-time would do the job if neither the Jets or Blues win. If both the latter lose in regulation, the Preds don’t have to do shit.

Which means the Preds could play any one of the Jets, Blues, Stars, or Avs in the first round. The first two are probably ickier first-round matchups than you’d want if you plan on being a Cup contender. But then again to complain about playoff matchups makes you a member of the Toronto media. There really isn’t an easy way out of the West, because there isn’t really a standout team.

The Preds also have some form to find. They’ve won four of five, and seven of their last nine, but that was after a month or more of being no more than so-so. Pekka Rinne found form again, going bonkers in March after spending the middle portion of the season making the winds in Tennessee whisper, “Saros.” They still don’t have much of a second-line, but the top unit of Arvidsson-Treat Boy-Forsberg have done enough lifting. Maybe Granlund finds it in the playoffs. First time for everything and all that. Kyle Turris doesn’t appear to be much more than a passenger with a bewildered look on his face.

The Preds would also do well to figure out the power play, which has looked all season like the Hawks’ did for the first third of the season. You’d think with that firepower on the blue line you could accident a power play, but this seems to be Predators tradition.

You sort of wonder what the Preds will do if they run up against a really defensively stout team like St. Louis or Dallas. Maybe their three or four trap-busters are enough to grind out four 2-1 wins. Or maybe their lack of depth scoring really comes to the fore if a team is able to snuff out the top line. The Preds will get their answers soon enough.

One more game, and then assuredly what will be a pretty hilarious press conference Monday when McDonough and Bowman try and walk back everything they said before and during the season in order to not have to fire Bowman. It’ll probably be way more entertaining than this one.

 

Game #82 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

J.R. Lind is always our Preds guy. Follow him on Twitter @JRLind.

The Predators have only won two of their last nine on the road. What’s the story there?
It’s hard to discount the injuries the team had to deal with in the last bit of 2018: Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, P.K. Subban and Colton Sissons all missed significant time and now Kyle Turris is out for a bit. The Preds were also due for a bit of a come-down, particularly on the road, where they started out so hot. The good news is guys are starting to come back and the team looked as good as they’ve looked all season Monday against Toronto with a 4-0 win and holding the Leafs to 18 shots.
Both Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros had something of a rough go in December. So does that make it a team problem more than the goalies having a down stretch?
 
Based on both guys’ last few starts, it seems like it was a general team issue, particularly on the back end. Subban’s injury led to Laviolette having to do some unusual things with the pairings, occasionally splitting up Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi and sticking, say, Dan Hamhuis – an extremely good third pair guy, but a little long in the tooth – on the first pair or playing Matt Irwin with Mattias Ekholm and so on. Since the calendar turned, the team is 3-0-1 and Saros has given up one goal in his last two starts and Rinne is coming off that shutout. I suspect Chicago will get Rinne as a divisional foe with Columbus coming on the other side of the back-to-back, but both guys have looked a lot better as the injured players have returned.
How much of this is Arvidsson and Forsberg being out?
 
Losing your two top goal-scorers is going to hurt any team, and then add into what those guys bring physically – Forsberg probably doesn’t get enough credit for that part of his game and Arvidsson is a stellar forechecker – and Nashville had to make some adjustments. It also had a ripple effect down the lines, with guys like Ryan Hartman and Phil Di Giuseppe actually seeing time on Ryan Johansen’s wing. But for a team that expects to play into June, getting more minutes for depth guys isn’t necessarily a bad thing and the extra ice time helped jumpstart Kevin Fiala, who had looked moribund early.
What will the Preds be looking for at the deadline?
 
Similar to last year with Hartman, a middle-six or bottom-six wing with a little size or physicality. The rash of injuries this year really put into focus how important depth can be and the series against the Jets last year – and it seems inevitable Winnipeg and Nashville will face-off again – the Preds did get pushed around a little. They don’t need a big, splashy move and I’m not saying Wayne Simmonds, but Wayne Simmonds.

 

Game #46 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

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Game Time: 7:00PM CDT
TV/Radio: CSN, NBCSN (US), TVA-S2 (Canada), WGN-AM 720
Golden Showers: On The Forecheck

The long national nightmare is over, The Chicago Blackhawks are once again playing hockey games that matter. And they’re doing so from their most advantageous position in four years, with home ice for as long as they remain in the Western Conference playoffs. For those counting at home, under Joel Quenneville the Hawks are 11-1 in series wherein they have home ice, the lone outlier being the 2014 Western Conference Final, which took to Game 7 in OT to end. That also remains the only series that the Hawks have ended up losing wherein they have taken Game 1. The road is laid out for them, and the first step is tonight on West Madison against the Nashville Predators.

Everything Else

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Game Time: 7:00PM CST
TV/Radio: CSN, WGN-AM 720
Get The Red Out: On The Forecheck

In what is looking more and more to be the case as games tick off the schedule, this will be the last meeting between the Hawks and Predators until Game 1 of the Western Conference Playoffs. And with both teams apparently locked into their respective positions within the division, tonight in Nashville and here on out remain about getting healthy and tightening up play more than about results.