The 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs are here and one of the more surprising match-ups is the Colorado Avalanche vs. Nashville Predators. Everyone expected the Predators to make the postseason, but no one pegged the Avalanche as a playoff team. Many pencilled Colorado in for a high lottery draft pick. However, Nathan MacKinnon helped carry this young team across the finish line.
Nashville is looking to finish the job it started when it made the Stanley Cup Final last season. The Predators boast the strongest defence in the league and Pekka Rinne played like a Vezina Trophy-winning goalie. The team also won its first Central Division title and the President’s Trophy.
Many have pegged this as one of the easiest series to predict, but the Avs are hoping to make a run like the Preds did last season. Nashville was the 16th-seeded team last season and gave Pittsburgh all it could handle in the final.
Here are three storylines to follow in this opening round series
Colorado Avalanche vs. Nashville Predators
Happy To Be Here
Colorado beat the St. Louis Blues in the last game of the regular season to snag the final Western Conference wildcard spot. The Avalanche completed one of the best one-year turnarounds in sports to get to the playoffs. Every game for the last two months for Colorado has felt like a playoff game. One must wonder how much is left in the tank.
The Avs could be content just making it into the playoffs, but the Predators are the first to remind people to be careful anointing teams as a favourite. Nashville knocked out division champions Chicago and Anaheim last season to get to the Stanley Cup final.
Colorado would love nothing more than to prove the naysayers wrong. Don’t expect them to just give Nashville a walkover in this series.
Second-year coach Jared Bednar does have AHL playoff experience as he led the Lake Erie Monsters to the Calder Cup. However, he matches up against a Stanley Cup champion in Peter Laviolette. That is a microcosm of this series as the experienced Predators take on the upstart Avalanche.
Colorado last made the playoffs in the 2013-14 season while Nashville has been a playoff fixture since the following season. The Predators know the expectations and know that anything less than a Stanley Cup is a failure.
Knowing how to win in the playoffs is one of the many advantages that the Predators have going into this series.
Beating Nashville at full strength would be a tall order, but Colorado will have to accomplish that without top goalie Semyon Varlamov and top defenseman Erik Johnson. Both have valuable playoff experience and were key components in the Avs’ resurgence.
Jonathan Bernier played well last season when the Ducks needed him, but the Predators found a way past him to win the West. Former Predators defenseman Samuel Girard has stepped in admirably for Johnson.
Nashville is coming into the playoffs mostly healthy. There were some injury concerns for Viktor Arvidsson, but he was a healthy scratch over the weekend and should be ready to go. The Predators also have incredible depth if someone does get hurt.
Colorado winning this series would a great story and it would be one the biggest upset in postseason history. However, it’s almost impossible because Nashville holds the advantage in most facets of the game. The playoffs are weird but don’t expect any miracles Avalanche fans.
The Avs should be very satisfied with their successful season and MacKinnon should win the Hart Trophy. However, the Predators are on a mission and want to bring the silver chalice to Music City
Nashville in 5 games.
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