Nashville Predators: Game 3 will be a tough test in Colorado

(Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images) /

After two hard-fought games at Bridgestone, the Nashville Predators are in control of their series against the Avalanche. The battle continues tonight.

Two difficult games proved this playoff series is a test. A test of skill, mental focus, and emotions. Both teams fought through 120 minutes of physical hockey. When the final whistle blew, the Nashville Predators stood victorious, taking a 2-0 series lead against the Colorado Avalanche in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Now, the series moves to the Pepsi Center in Denver. The Avalanche were one of the NHL’s best at home on the season, going 28-11-2. But the Predators finished the season with a 25-9-7 road record, the best in the league including two games at the Pepsi Center. If the first two games are any indication, tonight’s game will be just as demanding on both teams.

There are several storylines building as this series continues. In each of the opening two games, the Predators struggled in the first period allowing a goal on the Avalanche’s first shots. Certainly not the what fans hoped to see. Luckily, the Predators found their way to victory. Along with the slow starts, officiating of each game has been in question. It has reached the point to where Colorado media are calling the Predators “dirty.” I am not going to sit here and deny that teams have gotten away with a few things, but I have yet to see a really dirty play in this series.

Based on the first two games, I expect more difficult play tonight.

Keys to a Game 3 win

The Predators have yet to play their best hockey in this series. Whether it is a defensive lapse allowing an open goal, penalties, or inability to make or handle passes, Nashville is not clicking on all cylinders. Of course, the speed and desperation of the Avalanche disrupt the chances the Predators do gain. They are gritty, effectively using poke-checks and body placement to challenge every move the Predators attempt.

If the Predators want to win tonight, they must control the puck. Sure, they are leading the shot-share battles, but long possessions in their offensive zone are few. Even without Erik Johnson and Samuel Girard, Colorado blocked over 20 shots in Game 2. Nashville is getting opportunities to shoot, but they are often one-and-done as the Avalanche take possession. Jonathan Bernier is playing well in net, but has yet to be tested in ways the Predators showed over the season.

In order to win tonight, the Predators must gain more time in the offensive zone and pepper Bernier with shot after shot. With great puck movement, Nashville can increase high-danger chances and put pressure on a depleted Avalanche defense. Additionally, while penalties will be called, the Predators do not need to allow emotions to rule. Their penalty kill performed well in the first two games, allowing one goal in eight chances. The goal came during a 5v3 advantage for the Avalanche.

We have witnessed the ability of Nathan MacKinnon and his line to score. The Predators have deployed Nick Bonino, Austin Watson, and Colton Sisson against the Avalanche’s top line. The results have been mixed. While the trio has battled to a near 50/50 split in shots, MacKinnon has gained high-danger chances and the Avalanche have scored. If the Predators do not tighten up the defense on Colorado’s top line tonight, it could be a big night for Colorado.

Projected Lineup

To this point, health has not been a concern of the Nashville Predators. The only players scratched from games due to injuries have been Calle Jarnkrok and Yannick Weber. Both players participated in the Predators morning skate. Jarnkrok played on the third line during practice while Scott Hartnell skated with the second line. No word on the actual starting lineup, but the rest of the morning skate was the same as the Game 2 lineup. However, do not be shocked if Mike Fisher is scratched.


Filip Forsberg – Ryan Johansen – Viktor Arvidsson

Kevin Fiala – Kyle Turris – Craig Smith

Colton Sissons – Nick Bonino – Austin Watson

Miikka Salomaki – Mike Fisher – Ryan Hartman


Roman Josi – Ryan Ellis

Mattias Ekholm – P.K. Subban

Alexei Emelin – Matt Irwin


Pekka Rinne

Juuse Saros

Where to watch

Tonight’s game from Denver will start at 9:00 p.m. Central time on Fox Sports Tennessee, with Predators’ pregame starting at 8:30 p.m. Fans outside of Nashville can watch on NBCSN. The game will also air on 102.5 The Game and the Predators Radio Network.