Preds and Blackhawks Are Really, Really Evenly Matched

Published on 22-Apr-2015 by J Square Humboldt

NHL    NHL Daily Update

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Preds and Blackhawks Are Really, Really Evenly Matched

It's not like Shea Weber needs any more ammo for contract negotiations.

That deal's in the bank already.

But in a Stanley Cup first-round series as keenly matched as this one, his absence is sorely felt by those sympathetic to the Nashville cause.

In fact, this play may have been the turning point in their pairing with the Chicago Blackhawks:

In four games to date, there's been one double-overtime and one double-overtime-and-change, with the latter occurring last night:

Full marks to Roman Josi, Seth Jones, and Mattias Ekholm for soaking up the extra minutes, but neither he nor any other Pred blueliner can bring the physical presence and smarts that Weber does, expecially when games are bleeding past the midnight hour.

And it's not just his defense the Predators are missing:

Well, statistically speaking, it was faster. Data instruments have a way of confirming that.

Nashville's had a strong season, while ironically, the vaunted Blackhawks have struggled on occasion. Of course, it didn't help their cause to lose Patrick Kane for a stretch, but he's now healthy and Joel Quenneville's got the squad firing on all cylinders.

And when there's a hiccup -- Corey Crawford, of all goalies! -- Chicago's got an answer, even if it means pulling a rabbit out of a hat. On the other hand, Pekke Rinne's hands have been full just pulling the puck out of ... somewhere:

Rinne hasn't been all that sharp since returning from injury, himself, but he did all that was asked and more in Game 4.

Now, he's gonna have to do even more yet for the rest of the series. Otherwise, there won't be much of it left unless Weber can return. If not, Nashville's remaining options will leave something to be desired.