In recent years, the Nashville Predators have been a thorn in the side of the Colorado Avalanche in the regular season and postseason. Can they keep it up?
In our first Central Division preview, we investigate last year’s games played, changes that both teams have gone through and look ahead to what we can expect of both teams. To foreshadow, the games played between these two teams should be considered as “must-watch hockey” by all hockey fanatics. Two division rivals who play similar styles of hockey.
Since the 2015-16 season, the Predators have won 13 of 18 regular season games and won four of six in the playoffs against Colorado. Last year, the Avalanche and Predators split their four-game set, each winning two and losing two. One would think that that given that history the Predators would have a high confidence level when playing the Avalanche. While they did split this year, the real story of how the season unfolded is how the teams played and won during those games.
Their season series
Early November saw the first matchup the two teams had. This is the game that should be remembered as the game Colton Sissons went off to help the Predators win 4-1. Sissons would go on to score a hat trick and score the teams only power play goal against the Avalanche that season. Head coach Peter Laviolette would change the line up as Viktor Arvidsson wasn’t playing that night by putting Kevin Fiala on the JoFA line.
Colorado would come back to play in Nashville later in November. The Predators would get many chances to win this game, but early scores by Nathan MacKinnon would help give an edge for an Avalanche win. The Avalanche would end up scoring two power play goals to win the game 3-2. It would be the beginning of the Predators’ power play woes. It marks another close game between two teams that are very similar.
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The next meeting would be domination in Colorado for the Predators in mid-January, winning 4-1 again. Ryan Johansen was suspended, and Filip Forsberg was absent due to injury as well. Johansen was replaced by Sissons on the JoFA line and Colin Blackwell took Kyle Turris’ spot in the lineup as well. Minus the power play, the Predators played strong. Pekka Rinne also came up big, like he has done a countless number of times.
For the final meeting of the year in February, the Predators would be blanked by an Avalanche team that was on fire at this point. They exploited the Predators bad power play along with the penalty kill. The Predators would suffer a rare loss in the series, getting pummeled 5-0. Just the second regular season loss to the Avalanche in the last 15 meetings.
Overall for the year, the teams nearly split all totals such as power play minutes, goals scored and scored against and so on. Through the course of the year, it should be known that the Predators dominated the total shots on goal, Corsi and Fenwick totals per Natural Hat Trick. They were getting scoring chances, but were not always converting on their opportunities.
The only concerning game was the final game because the Predators were completely out of sync during that time as Laviolette really changed up the lines and the power play was not existent. The Avalanche were just starting to catch fire and go on an amazing run in March that would lead them far into the playoffs. We hope that the players put that game behind them and can continue their success against the Avalanche moving forward.
How they match up in 2019-20
Now that last year is behind us, we look forward to how the series looks for this season. Both teams have added pieces and lost pieces in their lineups that make the upcoming meetings this season intriguing. They are very similar teams, which always makes for must-watch hockey.
As we all know, Matt Duchene is in and P.K. Subban is out for the Predators. The rest of the lineup is about the same as it was a couple years ago. The Avalanche, on the other hand, have made some serious changes to their lineup. Tyson Barrie was traded to Toronto to bring in Nazem Kadri, they signed Joonas Donskoi and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. They purposely let players go to the free agency so they could sign a new, more veteran bottom six. Both teams have kept their defense potent offensively and defensively over the offseason as well.
These two evenly-matched teams will play another four regular season matches this season. For the Avalanche, their new depth should play along nicely compared to the Predators. The Avalanche could possibly out-hit the Predators, forcing them to play a different style game if the players aren’t ready. On the Predators side, it’s all about finding that chemistry with the new players.
Predictions on how each team will be next year in these matches comes down to overcoming weaknesses. The Predators need to get their power play going and create better offensive chances overall. As long as the Predators can handle the Avalanche’s speed and depth with their own, they should continue to pose a threat.
The Avalanche will have some growing pains early on, but they will be a threat to the entire conference. They now have a deeper talented bottom six. Their biggest challenge is to gel as a team and protect their goaltenders, Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz. This is Colorado’s weakest area on the roster. The Predators can take advantage of that and maybe continue their recent dominance as they are much stronger in net with Rinne or Juuse Saros.
Depending on where the teams are in February, the end stretch could easily determine who takes the series advantage over splitting the series again. Another split decision season looks to be in the future unless the additions of Duchene and Dante Fabbro are the missing links.
The Predators won’t see the Avalanche much early on, but they will face them often at the most important time of the season. Three meetings between these two in the last two months of the regular season could easily be a battle for a final playoff spot. There’s no other team in the division the Predators are more evenly-matched with. Good luck betting on this series.