NHL West

Blackhawks vs Predators Storylines: Kane Rises

Blackhawks vs Predators Storylines: Kane Rises
Zach Hopkins

As the Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators prepare to do battle in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the following storylines may play a role in deciding the series’ victor.

 

Patrick Kane Returns

After breaking his left clavicle back in late February, the earliest Patrick Kane was expected to be able to play was the Western Conference Finals. IF the Blackhawks were to make it that far. Now, just a month and a half later, the enigmatic forward has been cleared for contact and Game 1 of the opening round series against the Nashville Predators.

Kane’s return is a huge boost for the Blackhawks who now can add the services of one of the NHL’s most skilled scorers. Kane was among league leaders in points before his injury and still managed to finish second on the team with 64 despite missing time down the stretch.

For the Blackhawks to have a chance at defeating the Central Division’s second seed, they will need to find a way to beat goaltender Pekka Rinne, who posted 41 wins in the regular season. Adding Kane to the mix increases the odds and adds to the elite-level talent that the Predators defenders will need to shut down if they want to move on to round two.

 

Peter Laviolette Out for Revenge

As a coach, Peter Laviolette has 43 career playoff wins and one Stanley Cup championship that he won in Carolina in 2005-06. Since then, he has been back to the Stanley Cup Final once in 2009-10 with the Philadelphia Flyers, who made the playoffs on the season’s final day and overcame being down three games to none to Boston Bruins early on in the playoffs.

Using a third-string goaltender, the Flyers blew past the Montreal Canadians in the Eastern Conference Finals and set up a date with Laviolette’s current opponent, the Chicago Blackhawks. After losing the first two games, the Flyers climbed back to tie the series before ultimately losing Game 6 in overtime on a side-angle shot by Kane.

Laviolette would go 9-13 in the playoffs with Flyers since their loss in the Cup Final and the club’s struggles caused him to eventually be let go after just three games in 2013. Now behind the bench in the Music City, he has led the Predators to one of the Western Conference’s best records.

With his attack-first system, he has infused life and energy to what had been an anemic offensive unit. Mixed with their potent defensive squad lead by captain Shea Weber, the Predators are a well-rounded team that will give Laviolette his best chance to defeat the club that denied him of the championship just a handful of seasons ago.

 

Kimmo Timonen Looks to Copy Ray Bourque 

Defenseman Kimmo Timonen was on the 2009-10 Flyers team with Peter Laviolette that lost to Chicago in the Stanley Cup Final. To date, it was Timonen’s only appearance in the playoff’s final round and the Cup remains the last piece of the puzzle to what has been a brilliant career.

After being diagnosed with blood clots in his lungs and lower extremities, Timonen was unsure if he would be able to play hockey again and mulled the idea of having to hang up the skates before having one last chance to go out a champion. Through vigorous training and therapeutic intervention, Timonen was cleared to return to the ice this season just before the NHL’s trade deadline.

Realizing that his club did not have a realistic shot at making a run, Flyers General Manager gave Timonen to go-ahead to pick a team of his choosing to go to in order of giving himself one final shot at the Stanley Cup. The move is identical to the Boston Bruins moving Ray Bourque to the Colorado Avalanche after 21 seasons as the defenseman finally hoisted the trophy two seasons later.

In Timonen’s case, this is his last chance and he has made it known that the 2014-15 season would be his last. He handpicked the Blackhawks due to their recent playoff successes and position as one of the league’s top teams. Although his former coach will hope for the opposite fortune, Timonen will now have one last chance to add the Stanley Cup to already crowded resume.

 

Which aspect of the Blackhawks/Predators series are you looking forward to the most? Continue the conversation below and/or on twitter @healedbyhockey

NHL West
Zach Hopkins
@healedbyhockey

Zach Hopkins has been a fan of hockey since he was old enough to say “Let’s Go Flyers!” Born and raised outside of Philadelphia, he has spent the majority of his life playing, talking and writing about the coolest game on earth. When not at the rink watching or playing in a game, he can be found teaching his four-year-old son the history of the sport and is proud to announce that the little man can name all 30 NHL clubs and multiple players per squad. Zach has contributed to multiple hockey outlets and currently can be found dishing out fantasy and prospect news at Dobberhockey and Dobberprospects. At TSS, this hockey connoisseur will write about the Philadelphia Flyers.

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