Rivalries fizzle and fade away over time, but new ones also form. The Nashville Predators have a new foe to worry about in the West.
The Nashville Predators are playing near-perfect hockey right now, finding ways to win even when they’re not playing very well. That dangerous way of living will catch up to them as they start playing better teams, and the Colorado Avalanche are one of them.
It’s no surprise to me that the Avalanche are off to a nice start of their own. Their top line rivals the Predators, and they have a lot of young pieces that are improving. This franchise has been in the dumps for a while, but those grim days seem to be coming to an end for them. It’s a new challenger for the Predators to deal with in an already stacked division.
Tonight’s game will be the first meeting between these two teams of the 2018-19 season. They haven’t met since the Predators survived a respectable challenge from the Avalanche in the first round of last year’s playoffs. I expect nothing less than another physical and exciting clash between these two teams. We never thought of the Avalanche as a rival, but they’re building themselves up to potentially be one. They earned my respect in the playoffs giving the Predators all they could handle, and they certainly have my attention.
Getting to know the Avalanche
No one really seemed worried when the Predators drew the Avalanche as their first-round opponent in last season’s playoffs. Everyone was focused on getting back to the Stanley Cup after claiming the top seed and winning the Presidents’ Trophy. However, the Avalanche had other plans and put up a dogfight to keep things more interesting than anyone would’ve liked.
I look at the playoff meeting between these two teams as a glimpse into how good the Avalanche are going to be instead of the Predators playing down to their competition. You have to first look at their heralded top line that’s really starting to get some national respect. The trio of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog are right there with the JoFA line. When these two teams play, their tops lines cancel each other out.
They’re balanced in the crease as well with goaltenders Semyon Varlamov and Philipp Grubauer. Varlamov is their main anchor, but Grubauer can step in and win games as well. It’s only through nine games played, but Varlamov is putting up some Vezina-worthy numbers. With that said, their scoring weapons and their stability in net makes them a dangerous team.
Colorado is a fun team to watch when your favorite team isn’t playing them. They light up the scoreboard and move the puck down the ice effortlessly. It takes a strong defensive unit, like that of Nashville’s, to at least slow them down. That’s what makes a matchup between these two so juicy. I’ll take the likes of P.K. Subban, Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi over anything Colorado can throw at us on defense.
Where this rivalry is heading
I see the Predators and the Avalanche meeting again in the playoffs, but not in the first round. The Avalanche aren’t going to sneak into the playoffs this year. In fact, I see them right in the hunt with Nashville and Winnipeg for the top seed. I’m not surprised they’re playing this well as I had them fourth in the preseason divisional power rankings.
As they are divisional opponents, we’re going to see a lot of Predators-Avalanche in the coming months. If you’re a true hockey fan, that should make you very happy. With the Blackhawks falling apart currently, the Predators need a new rival. The Avalanche are going to fill that void. They’re the next young, hungry team who is looking to do what the Predators did two seasons ago.
Another reason why this is brewing into a great rivalry is both teams play fast, aggressive and put up a lot of goals. Colorado is second in the league in goals per game at 3.71, and the Predators aren’t far behind. Both teams also defend well against giving up goals, but the Predators lead the NHL at 2.14. Yes, I know it’s early in the season, but I see no reason for those numbers to change drastically. With the exception of a rash of injuries plaguing one team, these rosters are both elite enough to win the division and go deep into the playoffs.
We no longer need to worry about Chicago, Detroit or even Pittsburgh. That trio will always be rivals thanks to the history we have with them. However, Colorado is joining Winnipeg as our two biggest rivals that we will be seeing a lot of in the coming years.