What a task reversal for the Nashville Predators. A 12 months in the past, they crept into the playoffs because the No. 16 general seed and surprised the favored Chicago Blackhawks with a sweep, beginning a magical run to the Stanley Cup closing. Plucky underdogs no extra, the Preds are contemporary off their first Presidents’ Trophy. Many publications – together with us – picked them to win the Stanley Cup. Will the brand-new weight of expectation have an effect on them? Or will Smashville steamroll Colorado in Round 1? The Avs are prime heavy, however what a prime they’ve. Few gamers have been extra dominant than Nathan MacKinnon this season, and he types one of many NHL’s elite traces with Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen.
How They Win: The Avalanche pulled off the close to inconceivable this season. They traded a franchise stalwart for futures and nonetheless managed to get higher. And therein lies the power of this roster. Part of it has been the bond developed by taking Matt Duchene, a participant who clearly didn’t need to be in Colorado, out of the room. Chemistry can create a really deep esprit de corps, and the Avs have embraced their collective id. They’ve realized to belief coach Jared Bednar’s aggressive push-the-pace system. It’s loads simpler to play that method once you’re younger, and it’s simple to proceed when you have got success. The Avs aren’t afraid to make use of their youth and velocity to their benefit, partly as a result of they boast an improved protection corps. MacKinnon, one of many prime Hart Trophy contenders, has benefitted most from being given the inexperienced mild to take advantage of his velocity recreation.
How They Lose: Gumption can solely go thus far till actuality units in, as evidenced by the very fact the Avs have misplaced 10 straight video games to Nashville. There’s a purpose for that. The Avs have a tricky time in opposition to groups that may put the clamps on their velocity. Colorado isn’t a very huge staff, and working into huge groups is usually tantamount to hitting a brick wall. And a lot the way in which it was when the Avs made the playoffs 4 years in the past, they don’t seem to be an excellent possession staff. The Avs are significantly mild within the shot makes an attempt class, largely as a result of they don’t have the puck sufficient. That places a pressure on their protection corps and goaltenders – much more so when No. 1 D-man Erik Johnson and No. 1 netminder Semyon Varlamov are out for the collection.
How They Win: With enviable scoring stability, a blueline corps that’s with out peer within the NHL and one of many league’s elite goaltenders. Seems fairly easy once you put it that method, doesn’t it? Those of you who can find a discernible weak point on this lineup ought to let the remainder of the hockey world know what it’s, as a result of it will save folks plenty of hassle. There was a time when the Predators cast an id as a small-market, hardworking staff that used effort and character to make up for its shortcomings in expertise. Those days are lengthy gone. Coach Peter Laviolette’s Preds are one of the crucial explosive offensive groups within the NHL, and what makes them most spectacular is that they’ve improved by mild years offensively with out abandoning their dedication to the defensive facet of the sport. No staff can come near equalling the highest 4 of Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm and P.Okay. Subban on protection.
How They Lose: Nashville is among the most penalized groups within the league, albeit its penalty kill is solidly above common. In many video games it takes the Preds a interval to seek out their legs, then they dominate within the center body. The Predators bolstered their roster down the center once they persuaded Mike Fisher to return out of retirement, however they nonetheless don’t have that huge, dominant No. 1 pivot who drives possession and creates a ton of offense. But who’s kidding whom? We’re actually nitpicking right here. These guys don’t lose fairly often.
Five Things To Watch
1. Star energy versus depth at ahead. MacKinnon is one of the best ahead on both staff by a mile, and Rantanen might be the second finest. The lone edge Colorado has on this collection is elite star energy up entrance. Unfortunately, Landeskog, MacKinnon and Rantanen accounted for 93 of the 214 objectives scored by Avs forwards in 2017-18. That’s 43.5 % from three gamers. Secondary weapons corresponding to Alexander Kerfoot should step up. Meanwhile, the Predators area the other – almost unrivalled depth at ahead. Eeli Tolvanen, one of many recreation’s best possible offensive prospects, must struggle tooth and nail simply to discover a spot on the fourth line, for instance. The Preds are way more than purpose scorers Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson. They can deploy extremely efficient two-way forwards corresponding to Nick Bonino, Ryan Hartman and Colton Sissons of their backside six. That’s simply unfair.
2. Can Pekka Rinne replicate final 12 months’s playoff magic? Rinne was legendary in Round 1 in opposition to Chicago final post-season, permitting three objectives mixed in 4 video games, and he was a pressure all the way in which to the ultimate. He struggled mightily on the street in opposition to the Penguins within the closing, nonetheless. But this season, by which Rinne has probably put collectively a Vezina Trophy-winning marketing campaign, he’s additionally been a beast on the street. If he can shake that playoff homesickness, he’s a Conn Smythe Trophy frontrunner.
three. Presidents’ Trophy syndrome. Is the league’s finest common season file a curse? Only eight of 32 Presidents’ Trophy winners (25 %) have gone on to win the Cup. And 13 of 32 (40.5 %) have bowed out by the tip of Round 2. Is there any probability the Preds have misplaced focus? They performed .500 hockey over their final 10 video games. Meanwhile, Colorado was battling for a post-season berth proper all the way down to the season’s closing weekend and is available in hungry. No first-overall staff has choked in Round 1 since 2012, although.
four. Who steps up for Erik Johnson? The huge, sturdy Johnson led the staff in minutes, and his three:40 of shorthanded ice time per recreation was second in your complete NHL. Losing him in late March to a fractured kneecap is a large blow to the league’s fourth-ranked penalty kill. Colorado nonetheless has the underrated Tyson Barrie to maneuver the puck, however who steps as much as be the defensive rock? Hulking Nikita Zadorov has his work minimize out for him in opposition to such a deep and high-motor group of Nashville forecheckers.
5. Ryan Johansen, No. 1 heart? RyJo’s $Eight-million cap hit says he’s a high-end No. 1 heart, as he earns the eighth-most cash at his place, however he’s ranks 30th amongst facilities in factors because the begin of final season. The street to the Cup means outduelling some mixture of MacKinnon, Mark Scheifele, William Karlsson, Anze Kopitar and so forth. Can Johansen be The Guy? He was acquired for Seth Jones for that function. Johansen has been extra of a B+ than an A+ since coming to Nashville – although he was wonderful within the 2017 playoffs. Don’t depend him out but.
THN Series Prediction: Predators in 5.
LINE COMBOS, DEFENSE PAIRINGS & GOALIES