2015 Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions: Round 1

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Chicago Blackhawks vs. Nashville Predators

The second match-up of the 1st Round, includes another battle between two Central Division rivals, the Nashville Predators (C-2) and Chicago Blackhawks (C-3). There’s a little more history in this match-up, as the last time these teams met in the playoffs, the Blackhawks bested Nashville in a six game series that eventually saw the Hawks win the Stanley Cup in 2010.

During that time, both teams have changed drastically, with the common theme being Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Out goes Barry Trotz, in comes Peter Laviolette, who saw his Philadelphia Flyers defeated in the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals by the same Hawks teams that defeated Nashville in Round 1.

When taking a look at this series, it’s very difficult to judge. The two teams have not played since December 29th, where both teams were in different states. The Nashville Predators were cruising at the top of the division, whereas the Blackhawks were still searching for their groove. The Blackhawks did win the season series (3-1-0) against the Preds. Granted three of four games were decide by a single goal, one in overtime and one in a shootout. Plus the two goal victory by the Hawks in the season series included an empty net goal. To say that these two teams are evenly matched is an understatement.

The main reason why the Predators have a chance to defeat the Hawks is because they are very familiar with their divisional rivals, and boast one of the best goaltenders in the league, Pekka Rinne. They are also led up front by rookie sensation Filip Forsberg and a top five defensemen in Shea Weber. The bad news is that they are playing their worst hockey at the most important time of year, losing six in a row.

When looking at this match-up, you can’t fail to mention that Patrick Kane has been cleared for contact and is expected to play in this series. Although the Blackhawks have been struggling of late, losing four in a row to close out the year, they will be getting a much added boost. They get their most dynamic forward back in the mix, which spells bad news for the Predators.

Although Nashville has been struggling lately, I expect this to be another long series. At the end of the day, with Patrick Kane coming back to re-ignite the Hawks, I expect Chicago to take care of business en route to another deep playoff run. Hawks in six.