Nashville Offensive GVT: 7.6
Nashville Defensive GVT: 14.6
Nashville Goaltending GVT: 5.6
Nashville Total GVT: 24.0
Chicago Offensive GVT: 1.6
Chicago Defensive GVT: 8.3
Chicago Goaltending GVT: 22.4
Chicago Total GVT: 40.0
Nashville Predators Strengths
The Preds had a strong bounce-back season for all the reasons we were surprised they fell apart the year before; a solid season from starting goaltender Pekka Rinne, balanced scoring from a core of young, hard working forwards, and a stifling defense quarterbacked by Shea Weber. New head coach Peter Laviolette seemed to be able to get the team to buy in immediately to a new system. Nashville surprised a lot of people by starting strong, but their second and third quarters were stronger than their first.
As a team the Predators gave up 28.3 shots/game (6th) and their top two defensemen, Weber and Roman Josi, were 4th and 5th overall in total ice time per game, 26:28 and 26:22 respectively. They were also the model of consistency in the first three quarters of the season, when they had 14 one-game losing streaks, meaning 14 times they bounced back from a loss with a win, and had only 3 two-game losing streaks.
Nashville Predators Weaknesses
Of course the fourth quarter of the season tells a different story. The earned only 15 pts in their last 20 games and fell from a pretty secure looking lead in the Central Division to finish in second. Rookie forward Filip Forsberg was looking like a favourite for the Calder Trophy, but his production tailed off and he may not even get nominated for it now. If we were talking about the Nashville Predators from the first three-quarters of the season, this would be an entirely different conversation, but the team has given its fans little reason to believe they can bounce back from their poor finish.
The youth and inexperience of the team may be their downfall as well. 20 year-old Forsberg led the team in scoring and the new motivations of first-year coach Laviolette may have worn off on the players and his new strategies may have worn off on their opponents.
Chicago Blackhawks Strengths
Chicago finished with the second lowest Goals Against. Even backups Darling and Raanta both posted a save percentage of 0.936, which is either a testament to goaltending depth, or a consistently strong defensive core. All season long there has been a non-quantifiable sense that they have the ability to turn it up when things get more serious, and while that never quite materialized, they certainly have the experience and leadership to do so.
Corey Crawford’s save percentage is better than Rinne’s at 0.924. Jonothan Toews finished 5th overall with a +/- of +30, and with a full season Patrick Kane would have been a legitimate threat to win the points race. If these stars can play to that level again, and the secondary players fill in the gaps, the Blackhawks can be a dangerous team again.
Chicago Blackhawks Weaknesses
Chicago has played a lot of hockey over the last few years, and they may simply be tired. There is no way of knowing if Patrick Kane will return at 100%, but the Preds shut down the ‘Hawks in the first few games, expect Kane back in the lineup regardless of his health.
Chicago’s Powerplay was less than effective this year, finishing 20th with 17.6%. Chicago was more consistent than Nashville, but their fourth quarter was also their weakest. If the Blackhawks of old appear, this series could be over quickly, but if the team fails to generate the intensity that they were so famous for (or even if it takes them a few games to regain it) their season could end quickly.
While both teams cooled off at the end of the season, Nashville has a steeper hill to climb to get back to shape, and while Rinne is capable of stealing a game or two, I still think we will see Chicago in the second round.