In the first round of the SB Nation NFL writers’ mock draft, the Carolina Panthers and Cat Scratch Reader took Alabama tight end O.J. Howard. There’s nothing wrong with the selection because Howard is such a good talent. However, it leaves some obvious needs at pass rusher and cornerback going into the second round.
While Chicago is icing a weaker team than in years past due to injury, one that many were surprised to see take home the No. 1 spot in the West, the Predators have one of their best playoff teams ready for a long run.
Of course, they’ll have to get through the NHL’s dynasty team of the last decade. A tough challenge, even with the Blackhawks’ injured lineup.
Chicago has had Nashville’s number all season. Besides the Predators besting the Blackhawks at the beginning of the season, Chicago wrapped up the five-game series with a sweep of the remaining matches. Richard Panik and Patrick Kane have, particularly, been the thorn in the Predators’ side this year with a combined 16 points against.
Pekka Rinne. The Predators goaltender is arguably the team’s weakest link. Rinne’s performance this season was better than his last, but his .912 save percentage in 48 playoff games still leaves something to be desired. Where Rinne goes, the Predators go. And if he struggles against the Blackhawks, they might not make it out of round one.
Can the Predators defense, led by P.K. Subban and Roman Josi, slow down the experienced and talented Blackhawks forwards? How Nashville matches up against the Blackhawks’ top-six is key. As for Chicago, Victor Ardvidson became a force for the Predators this year. How will they manage to contain him after a breakout year?
The Blackhawks. Chicago comes into the playoffs on a four-game losing streak, but they’ll sink back into their sweet spot easily to take Game 1.