Nashville Predators: Battle of top lines favors Ryan Johansen and company

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 18: Filip Forsberg
NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 18: Filip Forsberg /

Last season, the Nashville Predators were tested by the Colorado Avalanche. The two teams face off on Wednesday in a battle of stellar top lines.

Rematches are often overrated. Not since the days of Mohammed Ali and Joe Frazier has a rematch between two athletes or teams truly lived up to the hype. Maybe the USA versus Canada Womens’ hockey rematch during the Olympics. And, the 2003 and 2004 ALCS between the Red Sox and Yankees. Tomorrow, the Nashville Predators face the Colorado Avalanche is a rematch of the opening round of the 2018 playoffs.

After a solid start, the Avalanche have lost four of their last five, including an OT loss. They are 7-4-3 on the season, but 3-1-1 at the Pepsi Center. The three wins, which included 15 goals, came against the Wild, Flyers, and Senators. Calgary held the Avs to two goals, and the Lightning shut them out.

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The strength of the Avalanche? That would be their top line. Mikko Rantanen leads the league with 24 points (5g, 19a). Linemates Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog both have 11 goals on the season. As a line, they have 14 goals during 5v5 on the season, the best in the NHL.

As a team, the Avalanche tallied a league-best 52 goals on the season. Thirty-nine of those goals came during 5v5, 13 during the power play and 1 short-handed. They are certainly an offensive threat. However, they are playing above their numbers to this point.

Colorado is being outshot on the season, given them a CorsiFor rating of 47.22% during 5v5. The MacKinnon line itself has a CorsiFor of 47.71%. While the Avalanche are scoring goals at a rate of 2.96 per 60 minutes, their xGF/60 is only 2.1. They are on par between GA (2.29) and xGA/60 (2.3).

Even with the amazing top line, the Avalanche only have 108 high-danger chances on the season. They have turned those into 17 goals, but they are 21st in total chances. MacKinnon leads the team with 18 chances while Rantanen only has 7. Together, this line has been on the ice for 33 HDCF, allowing 38 chances to opponents.

JoFA…sort of

While the Avalanche top line may be the best in scoring, the Nashville Predators top group of forwards are not far behind. The combination of Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, and Viktor Arvidsson have 11 goals at 5v5 together this season, tied for the third best line in the NHL. But, while Colorado’s line is great at offense, the JoFA line excels at both ends of the ice.

The JoFA line has 38 HDCF on the season, which is a few more than the Avs line. However, Johansen and company have allowed only 20 such chances to opponents, 18 fewer than the Avs. The JoFA line’s CorsiFor rating is 56.73%. Together they take shots and suppress opponents from gaining chances.

There is one small problem. Arvidsson is on the IR. Enter Kevin Fiala. Together, this trio has almost 14 minutes of ice time. In this small sample size, the characteristics of the JoFA line are still in play. Well, minus the scoring. Still, their CorsiFor is 60%, and they gain more high-danger opportunities then they allow.

Next. Preds are Cup favorites, at least right now. dark

Sure. The Avalanche have a great offensive top line. Yet, they are not the complete line the Nashville Predators possess. Even without Arvidsson, the Predators should have enough to win this battle.

We will find out tomorrow night.