In one of the most surprising, and most dominant, performances of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Nashville Predators swept the top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks. Picked as a Stanley Cup favourite by many experts in the hockey world, the Blackhawks only managed to score three goals in the first round, unless you count the goal that Corey Crawford scored on his own net.
All jokes aside, this came as a surprise to many, and was arguably one of the most dominant playoff performances in recent memory.
Nashville Predators vs Chicago Blackhawks First Round Series Recap
In an effort to talk about the biggest points of this series, we will take a look back at the preview article and see if the three main talking points rang true through the four games.
The Big Names Showed Up For One Side
In the preview article for this series, we asked the question of whether or not the big names would show up. For the Predators it was a resounding yes, and the exact opposite for the Chicago Blackhawks.
The three names mentioned for the Blackhawks before the series were those of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Artemi Panarin. Kane finished the four-game series with one goal and one assist, Toews with the same as Kane, and Panarin with a lone assist. It is pretty easy to say that the three biggest offensive names for the Blackhawks went missing during the series, and they deserve their fair share of blame for being swept.
On the other end of the ice we mentioned Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson, P.K. Subban, and Roman Josi. Johansen finished the series with one goal and five assists, Arvidsson with two goals and two assists, both solid outputs for a single series. As for Subban and Josi, they averaged 25:17 and 27:15 of ice time respectively in a series in which the Predators only gave up three goals.
It’s safe to say that the Preds biggest names came to play, and the Blackhawks didn’t. Hence why the Blackhawks are picking up their golf clubs and the Predators are continuing their pursuit of Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Special Teams Battles
Both teams came into the post-season with extremely average power play and penalty kill numbers on the season. Neither one lit the world alight with their power play, but both penalty kills looked strong enough to not be a liability moving forward.
The Blackhawks scored two of their three goals in the series on the man advantage, which just shows how poor they were at even strength. Had they been able to capitalize on their opportunities, like they did twice on the power play, they might have been able to steal at least a single game.
As for the Preds, they went one-for-nine on the man advantage during the series against Chicago. And when you take into account that Chicago had a penalty kill percentage of 77.7 on the season, good for 24th in the NHL, it shows a sign for concern for the Predators moving into the later rounds. If the Predators want to make a serious run at Lord Stanley’s Cup, they need to improve on the man advantage going forward.
Rinne vs Crawford
The third, and final, point that was discussed prior to this series was the battle of the netminders. Pekka Rinne had himself a fantastic series, and Crawford, well not so much. This wasn’t the only difference between the two, but it definitely played an important role in a quick series.
Rinne started all four games for Nashville, allowing only three goals throughout the entire series on 126 shots on goal, good for a .976 save percentage. On top of that elite save percentage, albeit in a small sample size, Rinne bagged himself two shutouts against one of the top offensive teams in the entire league.
Crawford, on the other hand, had himself a rather shocking first round against Nashville. Comparing his series to that of Rinne is almost night and day. Crawford allowed 13 goals during the series on 124 shots on goal, good for a rather pedestrian .895 save percentage in the four-game sweep. On top of that, he became the subject of an almost-viral replay when he threw a puck caught in his pads into his own net. Safe to say that Rinne won this battle.
Corey Crawford is (an) elite (goalscorer). pic.twitter.com/rCRQum1sra
— Ryan Gilbert (@RGilbertSOP) April 21, 2017
There are a few final thoughts coming from this series, with most of them revolving around the Preds. For one, the addition of Ryan Johansen is finally showing, on a national stage, that it was a fantastic trade to make. Even though Nashville had to give up what is arguably an elite defenseman in Seth Jones for Johansen, he is playing a pivotal role in the success in The Music City.
The second and third thoughts are that trading Shea Weber for P.K. Subban has proven to be another fantastic move by the organization, and that Rinne still has more to offer. Trading Weber for Subban was trading an arguably elite defenseman for another, but Nashville is going to get more prime years out of Subban than Montreal will out of Weber. As for Rinne, 2016-17 has been a year of resurrection for him from his rotten 2015-16, and he deserves a good deal of credit for not only making the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but for sweeping the top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks.
The final thoughts, one for the Predators and one for the Blackhawks, are relatively simple. The Predators can easily roll into the Western Conference Finals against either of the teams they are to face, the St. Louis Blues or Minnesota Wild, if they continue to play like they did in this series. As for the Blackhawks, they are going to have to come up with some ingenious roster moves to be able to handle the cap conundrum coming their way and continue to be a perennial Cup contender.