The Nashville Predators travel to Colorado to face the Avalanche for the first time this season. It is the start of a long road trip for Nashville.
Five games in nine days, including back-to-back games next week. This is what the Nashville Predators’ coming schedule looks like. It is the first long road trip of the season for the Predators and will certainly be a tough test. And it all starts in the Rockies.
One thousand, one hundred and fifty-six miles. That is the distance between Bridgestone Arena and the Pepsi Center in Denver. Two years ago, the gap between the two teams on the ice appeared as wide as the miles from here to there. But, after last season’s playoff series, the gap is certainly closer.
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Still, the Predators are the team to beat in the Central Division. With a record of 6-0-0 on the road this season, Nashville is proving they can play with anyone, anywhere.
During the 2017-18 season, the Avalanche were swept away by the Predators. In each game, Nashville scored four or more goals, while holding the Avs to two goals per game. During the playoffs, the Predators outscored the Avs, 22 to 15. Twice, Colorado gained more than two goals.
The Avalanche started the season off well but faltered of late, losing four of their last five games. Nashville is coming off a 1-0 victory over a quality Boston Bruins squad.
What to expect
As much as I want to predict a Predators victory, I won’t do it with full conviction. Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen are two of the best scoring forwards in the NHL. However, they have not faced another line like JoFA. Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg excel at creating points as well as defending. The pair has allowed 28 high-danger chances on the season, creating 45 of their own. They also lead shot-shares with at least a 54% rating depending on the metric.
Without the other on the ice, the stats are in favor of their opponents. Thankfully, that is less than 90 total minutes of time.
The JoFA line will be missing a key part as Viktor Arvidsson is on IR. He could be activated prior to the game, but doubtful. Kevin Fiala will likely fill in the gap tonight, and the line’s production should not waiver much.
There is no doubting the Avs are motivated. A win over the Predators will do wonders for their confidence. They will need the rest of the team to step up in order to accomplish this mission. The Predators team defense can be stifling. If opponents do get to high-danger areas, Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros handle the attacks. The two Nashville goalies rank 4th and 10th, respectively in that area.
Problem for Colorado? They are 6th worst in getting to high-danger areas. Their top line carries the team. I am not certain Colin Wilson and company can keep up. Outside of the top line, only two Avs players have four or more goals. Seven players, including Samuel Girard, have a single tally on the season.
Then you have Rinne, who is a mere 23-7-2 against the Avs.
Now, this is not going to be a cakewalk of a game. The Predators have their own scoring issues and look completely incapable of putting together quality special-teams play. And, well, Forsberg and Arvidsson have carried the offense all season. Still, Nashville has allowed 19 goals during 5v5 play. No one is better. Only Columbus has more goals scored than then Predators’ 40 at 5v5.
OddShark gives the Predators the edge, with a score of 3.8-2
Prediction: Predators win 5-2, adding an empty net goal to give final margin.
Where to watch
Grab some caffeine. NBCSN will broadcast the action from Pepsi Center tonight, with puck drop shortly after 9:00 P.M. Central Time. You can also listen to Pete Weber and Hal Gill call the action on 102.5 The Game in Nashville.