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2017 NHL Playoff Preview: Central Division

An experienced Chicago looks like the team to beat yet again in this bracket.

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The NHL’s Central Division could again be home to the Stanley Cup champion, given Chicago’s propensity to win it every other year.

With three Stanley Cups since 2010 and the best record in the Western Conference, the Chicago Blackhawks’ chances are strong. We examine both their series against the Nashville Predators, as well as St. Louis’s tilt against Minnesota.

1 Chicago Blackhawks vs. WC2 Nashville Predators

The Blackhawks are a not a “wow” kind of team statistically. You will not see Chicago at the top of the key offensive or defensive charts. The only one you’ll see them top are the Western Conference standings, which happens to count for more than those other things.

Chicago is a worthy competitor in the Western Conference playoffs with a respectable offense and goaltender. Neither are as solid as you’ll find anywhere in the league, but good enough to win 50 games. Patrick Kane and the Bread Man, Artemi Panarin, are the main point-getters for this team. Then, factor in the veterans like Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, and Duncan keith, and you have a team that knows what the hell they’re doing in the playoffs. So does head coach Joel Quenneville, who has done nothing but win three cups this decade.

Yet, you can’t rest on your past laurels in the playoffs. Even though Chicago beat the Nashville Predators four out of five times, the Preds and PK Subban will come at them. Something working against Nashville is that they enter the series somewhat cold. The Predators are 2-4-1 over their last seven games, though their goalie, Pekka Rinne, has been fine. In fact, with a .938 save percentage in his last five starts, you could say better than fine.

The common theme for the Preds in their last few weeks has been a lack of offense, with the exception of putting a touchdown on Dallas. Since their March 28 contest in Boston, they’ve scored one goal or less in five of seven games.

Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg are the go-to goal guys for the Preds. Of those last seven games that didn’t go so well, Arvidsson scored two in the blowout over Dallas and none in the other six. As for Forsberg, he’s only scored two goals in his last 11 games. If those two aren’t on point, this could be a short series. It probably won’t be for lack of Rinne trying.

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