Blackhawks vs. Predators First Round Game 1

When: 7:00 PM

Where: Chicago, Illinois (United Center)

TV: NBCSN, CSN, Fox Sports Tennessee

Playoff hockey is finally back as the Hawks hit the ice for round 1 against the Nashville Predators. It’s the first time since 2013 that the Hawks will open the playoffs at home. Remarkable, really, given the team’s well-noted playoff success in recent years. It’s only the fourth time since 2009 that the Hawks open the first round in the friendly confines of the UC.

The Hawks have also seen their Game 1 of the first round go to overtime in each of the last five seasons, another remarkable streak that has surely taken years off of our lives. Given that stat, I wouldn’t bet against a little extra hockey this evening.

We’ve definitely seen the Hawks struggle out of the gate in recent playoffs. Game 1’s have not been their strength. Their ability to get stronger throughout a series has balanced that out somewhat. We saw it in 2010 when the Preds jumped all over the Hawks in Game 1 to steal home ice.

With that being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Hawks were slow out of the gates tonight. Nashville knows this game may be their best chance to steal a game on the road. It’s going to mean more to them to attempt to plant a seed of doubt in the Hawks’ heads. If they’re gonna do it tonight has to be the night, and even then I’m not sure they have enough to out pace the Hawks.

I expect Quenneville to use home ice to his advantage tonight (hence the phrase “home ice advantage”) by feeding on the Preds’ bottom six like a pack of wolves. If Q can get his matchups and get Toews and Kane lines out against Nashville’s glaring weak spot, it could be quick work for the men of four feathers.

Line-up wise I’d expect the Hawks to go with something like this:

Schmaltz-Toews-Panik

Panarin-Anisimov-Kane

Hartman-Kruger-Hossa

Kero-Hayden-Tootoo

That’s what they had during practice yesterday, and the only question mark revolves around the fourth line. I think you have to have Hayden in there somewhere. I loved the impact he had in his few games late this season.

If the Hawks can avoid sleepwalking through the whole game I expect things to be fine. This group knows what it takes this time of year, and the veterans even more so. I predict Nashville is gonna throw all they have at the Hawks tonight. Can they withstand the pushes and bring some heat in return? We’ll see.

Hold onto your seats.