RECORDS: Hawks 22-10-5 Predators 15-13-6
PUCK DROP: 7pm Central
GIMME GIMME THE HONKY TONK BLUES: On The Forecheck
ADJUSTED TEAM CORSI %: Hawks – 49.8 (15th) Preds – 52.2 (8th)
ADJUSTED TEAM xGF%: Hawks – 47.0 (25th) Preds – 52.7 (9th)
POWER PLAY%: Hawks – 18.3 (15th) Preds – 19.5 (13th)
PENALTY KILL%: Hawks – 74.7 (29th) Preds – 81.5 (14th)
TRENDS: Johansen has two goals this month… Rinne has given up 30 goals in his last 10 appearances for a SV% of .867
The Hawks take their three-game losing streak, with one point gained, down south the next two nights to take on the Predators and then the Canes to close out the 2016 portion of the schedule. They’ll find a not quite floundering, not quite surging, just kind of quite there Predators team at the Bridgestone tonight. Why we haven’t been saying, “At that confounded Bridge!” every time the Hawks go to said arena, I don’t have any idea but it starts now, big boy!
Let’s start with the Hawks. For the second time this season, Joel Quenneville is dangling the concept of scratching Brian Campbell, thus bringing an end to his consecutive games streak. This was mentioned before in late October/early November, but an injury to Hjalmarsson kept it from happening. 51 Phantom hasn’t been great the past few games, but he’s sure had a lot of company. The Hawks have managed four goals in these past three games, and you’d hardly pin that on Campbell. I suppose it’s the price we have to pay at this point to get Michal Kempny back into the lineup, but it seems a bit drastic when Gustav Forsling has been sunk in a tar pit for a while now.
I don’t know if Campbell’s consecutive game streak means anything to him or not. You’d think it would be something a player would take pride in, but maybe he’s got an eye on the bigger picture. Still, it seems punitive for the sake of it to a veteran player. Whatever, one game. It’s not like you’re going to scratch Keith or something.
As for the rest of the lineup, Marian Hossa remains out, Desjardins looks to be a healthy scratch because he’s bad, and Working Class Kero will center the fourth line to keep Hino 48 on the wing. Motte and Hartman will flank Toews, giving the Hawks at least a straight-line threat.
Flipping over to Nashville, they have their own injury problems on defense and PK Subban will miss out tonight and the next two games for them as well with an upper-body injury. That slots Matt Irwin up, and “slotting Matt Irwin” up is never a present-tense sentence you want to utter.
The Predators are a strange team. They’re having some of the problems you could have foreseen. Pekka Rinne has been digging his fingernails into the back bumper of the vehicle of just ok to hang on. .916 overall and .923 at evens would be the absolute bottom railing of what’s acceptable, but that might be the max that Rinne can give you at this point in his career.
The Predators still push the play among at a rate amongst the best in the league, and also one of the more high-action teams you can find as they create the fourth most attempts per 60 minutes. That’s a Laviolette team for you, playing the game as if “Battery” was being piped into their helmets.
But they don’t score to match their attempts rate. Filip Forsberg has had a huge dip in his shooting percentage, and Ryan Johansen a fairly big one too. There just isn’t a lot of upper-echelon scoring here. You’d love to have Colin Wilson and Craig Smith on your third line, but when Arvidsson and Fiala are among the top six you’re pretty even but there’s no pointy end of the spear. If you’re not going to have the fireworks that actually gets the puck tickling twine, you have to have plus-goaltending like the Wild are getting. They’re not getting it, and hence you get them putting their face in the Tennessee mud and spinning wheels. Why their wheels are attached to their face I couldn’t tell you, and maybe that’s the problem.
The Hawks split with the Preds in games #2 and #3 in October, and strangely not much has changed between the two teams. The Predators will get more shots and attempts, and the Hawks are more of a threat to do more with the ones they get. The Hawks’ goalie is more likely to make the bigger saves than the Preds’. Rinne is the worst starting goalie when it comes to SV% on high-danger chances, while Crawford is second best behind Dubnyk. And there is your main reason the Hawks and Wild are where they are in the standings, and the Preds are where they are.
But given the way the Preds play and the pace they can generate, if Crow isn’t at the top of his game… (tugs collar).