Never in the history of the NHL has an eight seed swept a one seed, but with the Nashville Predators up 3-0 on the Chicago Blackhawks going into Game 4 on Thursday it just might be time for history to be made.
Coming into this series the Blackhawks were predicted to make it out easily. The Predators did not have the best season, squeaking into the playoffs as the second wildcard in the Western Conference. The Blackhawks, on the other hand, are the Blackhawks. They have won three of the last six Stanley Cups with the same core of players and took first place in the West. Not only a favorite to get out of the first round, the Blackhawks were a favorite pick to win the Stanley Cup, just as they have been since 2010.
Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, this Predators team had nothing to lose. Coming into the season with expectations of being a top team in the West, the Predators stumbled at times and only managed to take a wildcard spot instead of a top three spot in the Central Division. By the time of the playoffs, the Predators had no pressure on their shoulders and it has shown. They have played their best hockey of the season.
Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, and Viktor Arvidsson have shown how much skill they have as a unit. Goaltender Pekka Rinne had back to back road shutouts for the first time in his career for games one and two in Chicago. The defense of the Predators has shown that it is one of the best in the league by holding the Blackhawks star players like Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Artemi Panarin, and Duncan Keith almost entirely off the score sheet.
However, the Blackhawks cannot be underestimated by the Predators going into Game 4. They are one of the most successful and most dominant teams of the past decade and they are filled with both playoff experience and offensive skill. If any team in the playoffs now could come back from a 3-0 series deficit, it is the Blackhawks. The Predators have to be careful not to get confident before Game 4.
The depth for the Predators is coming through. Kevin Fiala has two goals while Harry Zolnierczyk and Colton Sissons both have one through three games. The Predators needed their third and fourth lines to contribute if they wanted to beat a deep team like the Blackhawks.
On top of the depth scoring, the Predators are beating the Blackhawks in the possession game. They have two of the top ten best possession lines in the playoffs with the Johansen – Forsberg – Arvidsson line and the Calle Jarnkrok – James Neal – Fiala line. As a whole the Predators have the best possession stats besides the Minnesota Wild.
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) April 18, 2017
If the Predators are able to close out the series Wednesday and sweep the Blackhawks they will make history. On top of that they will gain confidence beyond belief going forward. It is a tough road getting to the Stanley Cup Finals, but a sweep against the best team in the West could propel the Predators to the Final for the first time in franchise history.