For the eighth-consecutive season, the Nashville Predators will be playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
It has now been five years since the remarkable 2017 playoff run when the Predators went to the Stanley Cup as an 8th seed in the Western Conference.
In the four postseasons since that incredible run, the Predators have gotten out of the first round once, and that was in 2018. The last three postseasons have been filled with major disappointment, including two first round eliminations and a play-in round elimination.
Over the last five postseasons, the Avalanche haven’t been much more successful than the Predators. The Avs have been eliminated in the second round in each of their three recent playoff appearances, and were eliminated by the Predators in the first round the year before.
Nashville Predators Playoff Schedule
The Predators/Avalanche series schedule is as follows:
Game 1: May 3rd, Away, @8:30pm CT ESPN, BSSO
Game 2: May 5th, Away, @8:30pm CT TNT, BSSO
Game 3: May 7th, Home, @3:30pm CT TNT, BSSO
Game 4: May 9th, Home @8:30pm CT ESPN, BSSO
Game 5, Game 6, Game 7th TBD (if necessary)
The Preds played the Avalanche four times this season, and came away with a win in three of them. The most recent match between the two teams was this past Thursday, where the Predators won 5-4 in a shootout.
The four games had an average of 8.25 goals per game, which is about two goals higher than the league average.
In the playoffs, where scoring has statistically gotten lower, and the game gets tighter, it should be expected that the 8.25GPG average drops a little, but all in all, this should still be a high-scoring series, with a lot of shots.
During the regular season, the Nashville Predators were the most penalized team in the league, with 135 more penalty minutes than the second place team.
In terms of minor penalties, the Predators were tied for first with 312 minor penalties. Come playoff time, the game gets more physical, and less penalties get called for physical play, which is something that can help the Preds tremendously.
However, the team needs to get their discipline in check because the Avalanche had lots of success on the powerplay this season. Their powerplay was ranked 7th in the NHL at 24 percent, equating to one goal every four powerplays, and the Preds were shorthanded an average of 3.46 times per game this season.
In order for the Predators to avoid being at a disadvantage, they need to tighten up on the discipline this round. On the flip side, the Predators have the sixth-ranked power play, at just over 24 percent.
Both teams have power plays that will be huge factors in who gets the upper hand, as the teams penalty kill and power play percentages are nearly identical.
In terms of penalty killing, the Preds have a 79.2% rate on the season, which ranked 18th in the league, while the Avs had a 79.7% which ranked 15th in the league, so we should see a couple power play goals for each team.
As it currently stands, it looks like the Predators will start the postseason without star goaltender Juuse Saros, who suffered a lower body injury in the 5-4 loss to Calgary on April 26th.
This is the biggest question mark surrounding the series, will Saros be healthy by the end of series? Or, will David Rittich be able to step up to the task?
Rittich played in the game against Colorado on May 28 and stopped 42 of 46 shots, plus all three in the shootout, in the 5-4 win. That game, Rittich let in three goals on 19 shots in the first period, then let in only one goal on the next 27 shots he faced.
The Avalanche will start Darcy Kuemper, who was 37-12-4 this season with a 2.54 GAA and a .921 save percentage.
The Predators led the NHL in hits with 53 more than the second place team. The physical and aggressive play displayed by the Preds this season became their identity, especially the “Herd Line”.
In the playoffs, when physicality comes to the forefront and the game’s intensity goes up, this line is going to be instrumental in any success the Predators wish to have.
In last Thursday’s game against the Avalanche, the Preds physical, strong play seemed to force the Avs into a corner and dismantle their game, and that is going to be the key to possibly beating them in the first round.
If the Preds can disrupt the Avalanche through physicality and build momentum, then we will be looking at a very interesting series.
A Bit of Optimism
The Avalanche are heavily favored to win this series, and rightfully so, however, when it comes to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, anything can happen.
In 2017, the Blackhawks were heavily favored over the Preds in round one, but the Preds were the better playoff team, and came to play. We sit in a similar situation now, however, it is also very different, given the uncertainty surrounding the Saros injury, with some outlets saying he will be out four to six weeks, and the team still not officially saying anything.
However, the Nashville Predators have the style that could produce success in the playoffs, and this could make for a very interesting series. Here’s to hoping we come out on top.