The Nashville Predators roughed up the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 on Saturday. They have now beaten every Central Division team at least once, and move to 18-8-1 with 37 points. Good for 1st in the Central and 3rd in the league.

Nashville Key Stats

Goals

Kevin Fiala, Eeli Tolvanen, Ryan Johansen, Craig Smith, Austin Watson

Assists

Ryan Johansen, Kevin Fiala, Eeli Tolvanen, Dan Hamhuis, Craig Smith, Mattias Ekholm, Matt Irwin 

Chicago Key Stats

Goals

Brandon Saad, Artem Anisimov

Assists

Brent Seabrook, Brandon Manning, Patrick Kane

What Happened

Nashville jumped out to an early lead thanks to Fiala. The Predators spent the first two minutes in Chicago’s zone before he slipped the puck through Ward’s five-hole from the slot. Tolvanen backhanded Smith’s feed just a minute later, and Johansen tapped one past Ward not even 45 seconds later. Within 4:11 of play, the Predators had absolutely destroyed the Chicago moral.

Duncan Keith took his frustrations out on Miikka Salomaki. He picked up a game misconduct, and an unusual seven-minute power play appeared for the Predators. Saad scored shorthanded, but the two-goal deficit wasn’t erased. With 44 seconds left on Nashville’s extended power play, Smith sniped one through Ward’s glove. The score was 4-1 at the end of one.

A couple of posts and crossbars helped each opposing goaltender out, but finally, Anisimov pulled the game within two on a slot shot. Pekka Rinne showed off his skills for the rest of the night as the offense cooled down, and a poorly timed goaltender pull laid the game to rest. After Watson buried the empty netter, Nashville had solidified their victory. The final score was 5-2.

Looking Forward

Filip Forsberg is officially on the IR for four to six weeks. The undisclosed upper-body injury occurred near the end of Thursday’s game with the Arizona Coyotes.

Two prospects from the Milwaukee Admirals were called up in light of the news, as Tolvanen and Anthony Richard wore gold for the first time this year. Rocco Grimaldi had already been called up after Turris was sidelined. The Admirals might be depleted of some offense for a little bit.

Three of the top six forwards for the Predators are now out. Turris, Arvidsson, and Forsberg have combined for 51 points. All three forwards are key power play contributors and huge components to the Predators’ success. A major blow to the Boys in Gold.

Austin Watson has scored 5 goals in nine games. The Toothless Wonder is back.

Forget the scoring- Smith won puck battles in all three zones, drove to the net all night, and absolutely dominated the Blackhawks. He played with a chip on his shoulder, and the Predators need him to step up.

Pekka Rinne somehow kept the game out of reach. He made unbelievable save after unbelievable save. But what’s new?

Overall, Nashville played faster and possessed the puck more against Chicago. They created 10 high danger chances and capitalized on their hard work most in the first period. The forwards drove the offense which is exactly what Nashville needs to do- the defensemen should be a safety net, not the propellers.

Also, Duncan Keith accounted for 29 penalty minutes (no joke) of Chicago’s 36. Miika Salomaki isn’t a known agitator, but he really must have gotten under Keith’s skin.

-Jack Woods covers the Nashville Predators and the Central Division for FullPressCoverage.com and PenaltyBoxRadio.com. You can follow Jack on Twitter at @jack_woods15 and the Full Press Predators at @FPC_Predators

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