RECORDS: Hawks 3-5-2 Predators 7-3-1
PUCK DROP: 7pm
TV: NBCSN Chicago
NO HUGGY NO KISSY TIL YOU MAKE ME A WIFE: On The Forecheck
The cushy start to the season is over, and the Hawks will remember what it’s like to have a road trip. They’ll also remember before too long what it’s like to play some real opponents night after night. And those memories might not be too sweet. But that’s for later in the month. For the first time this year the Hawks will embark away from the UC for a while, with a four-gamer that starts in Nashville before the California songs starting this weekend. Could have asked for an easier start.
The Nashville Predators are in fine fettle, as has been the custom, as they’ve taken 15 of the 22 points on offer so far this year. They also come off having just gotten both points (the second in OT) off the Lightning in Tampa and having won three in a row. They did the first part without Matt Duchene, their shiny new toy, and he’ll return tonight.
Look under the hood a bit, and it’s not quite as rosy. The Preds are one team when Duchene is out there along with Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi (the newly rich Roman Josi), and another when just about anyone else is out there. Those three and those who join them carry the play at 55% of chances and attempts. Every other time the Preds are below water. They have the highest shooting-percentage in the league at nearly 12% at evens, which isn’t going to continue. They also have a top-ten SV%, which probably will given the recent track record of Pekka Rinne . Although Rinne most likely isn’t going to ring up a .931 all season. When he comes to Earth a bit, the Preds current PDO of 104 is definitely going to deflate.
Maybe Treat Boy Johansen is in a sulk because Duchene has replaced him as the #1 center, or he’s in a sulk because the Halloween candy hasn’t been discounted yet and his usual wheelbarrow of it is feeling the effects, but he’s been getting caved in and he starts most of his shifts in the offensive zone. Kyle Turris has showed a pulse after going cold and grey last year which has mitigated Treat Boy’s struggles a touch.
Still, this team might need to figure out what they’ll do beyond the top pairing, as new kid Dante Fabbro hasn’t been able to do the things PK Subban did yet, except for not being popular and black which were two things the Predators were definitely after by moving PK along to make room for him.
The Preds also might have some issues when they need the power play to chip in, as it’s been worse than the Hawks’ if that’s even possible. Maybe they could use a right-handed bomb from the point and circle? No? Ok. So yeah, there’s some air in this cake, let’s say.
That doesn’t mean they aren’t going to be a world of trouble for the Hawks, as they have more speed basically everywhere and will use it aggressively. The Hawks were able to hang around the Knights earlier, but they had caught them on a back-to-back and were at home and maybe had their best effort this season or even last against them. They also had Connor Murphy. Even with Seabrook scratched again (and not a happy camper) Preds will be fighting each other to get over the boards when any of Maatta, Gilbert, Koekkoek, and Gustafsson are out there. Hey, that’s most of the Hawks’ defense!
As for the rest of the story for the Westside Hockey Club, Robin Lehner will get another start as he is more worthy of the harder tests right now. Crow will get at least one start in California, and starting with that swing the Hawks will basically be playing every other day for all of November so there will be more than enough starts for everyone.
For all the buzz coming off a 5-1 win over the woebegone cattle ranchers that ended up as LA Kings, the Hawks gave up too much possession and shots in that one. That kind of effort here would see them give up nearly a touchdown or 50 shots or both. This can be a game too fast for the Hawks if the Preds want it, so the Hawks defense is just going to have to get rid of it ASAP, get it off the glass and out to the neutral zone and hope the forwards can win those races. If the Hawks can get the pucks to their forwards with any frequency, they can have at the bottom two pairs of this Preds outfit. Then they just have to beat Rinne, which takes more than a smile these days.
There are going to be some ugly shifts either way tonight, and hopefully Lehner is up to the task. But if the Hawks are going to be what they say they are, they have to get points off teams ahead of them. So far this year their wins are against terrible Oilers and Kings teams. That’s not going to get you anywhere in the long run except back in the lottery with those Kings and Oilers teams. Fuckin’ figure it out.