The Nashville Predators cruised through the 2018 NHL season finishing first in points with 117 points and the franchise’s first ever Presidents’ Trophy. But their opponents, the Colorado Avalanche had a much harder time getting in. The Avalanche snuck into the postseason with a 5-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues in what was a “win, and you are in” scenario. But can the Avalanche upset the Nashville Predators?
This series should be very heated as both teams come out of the Central Division and know a lot about each other’s play style. Each team’s regular season accomplishments are out the door, and it is now a matter of who can win four games before the other.
Nashville Predators dominance
The Predators are a year removed from a Stanley Cup Finals appearance where they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins. With their play in the 2017-18 season, they look like they are prepping for a return to the finals.
Nashville dominated on both sides of the ice this season, which led them to the highest goal differential in the entire NHL. The Predators’ ability to turn defense into offense is what makes them so unique. It helps keep the defense calm when they know they have a goalie playing at the level Pekka Rinne is.
Pekka Rinne’s incredible season
There is no doubt that Rinne is the backbone of the Nashville Predators, and he proved that this season. In 59 games, he had a save percentage of .927 and goals against average of 2.31 goals per game. Rinne also had the third highest win total of the 2017-18 season, finishing the season 42-13-4.
Rinne has seen success against Colorado in this season. In his three games against them, he is a perfect 3-0-0 with a 2.00 goals against average and a .922 save percentage. Heading into the playoffs, Rinne will be looking to continue that success with a big series against the Colorado Avalanche.
Nashville has done a terrific job of holding onto leads when they get them, and it is a significant reason as to why they were so successful this season. When the Predators score first, they are a very tough team to beat, and it shows in their 41-4-6 record this season when they score first. The Preds outscored opponents 72 to 49 this season in the first period. Their fast, energetic starts are a driving force behind their success this season.
Colorado Avalanche: How did they get here?
The start of the 2017-18 season for the Colorado Avalanche was incredibly tough. Before Dec. 28, they were 17-15-3 and were dead last in the Central Division with 37 points, but then they went on a run.
From Dec. 29 to Jan. 22, the Avalanche went on a 10-game win streak that propelled them to fifth in the Central Division, just three games out of the last Wild Card spot. Colorado did not look back after their winning streak and continued to play well. Going into the final game of the season, a win and you are in scenario was in place against the St. Louis Blues. The Avalanche dominated the game and defeated the Blues 5-2 en route to a postseason appearance.
Nathan MacKinnon breakout year
Since the 10-game winning streak earlier this season, MacKinnon has been exceptionally dominant. MacKinnon has the fifth highest point total in that span, including the highest points per game total in the league at 1.31 points per game.
The 22-year-old Avs forward has vaulted himself into Hart Trophy considerations. He led the way for the Avs’ playoff push and proved to be among the NHL’s elite. Going into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, continued elevated play from MacKinnon will be necessary to win, especially if they are going to upset a team as good as the Nashville Predators.
Can the Avalanche upset the Nashville Predators? Based off of the way the two teams played against each other this season, the easy answer would be no. Colorado was not able to get a single victory in against the Predators this season, but anything can happen in the playoffs.
Nashville has the home-ice advantage, and it is tough for opposing teams to get victories in Bridgestone Arena. Expect the Avalanche to get one or two games in on their home ice, but the Predators should handle business in the first round. They have the better defense and the better goalie, and that has been a proven win-now formula in the NHL playoffs.
Predators win the series 4-2.
Featured image by NHL.com
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