The 82-game regular season is officially in the books. 16 teams will begin their journey with the hopes of hoisting the Stanley Cup when it is all said and done. The FPC NHL staff will preview each and every series all the way through the Stanley Cup Finals. On the docket: The Nashville Predators vs. the Colorado Avalanche.
It is the defending Western Conference Champions versus a Colorado team that accumulated just 48 points last season. This year, they rebounded to notch the final wild-card slot. Who will win, and why? Read on to find out.
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Nathan MacKinnon vs the Preds Defense
I think this will be the biggest key for Colorado, it will be whether or not Hart Trophy candidate Nathan MacKinnon can carry his all-star level of play into the playoffs. Mackinnon needs to be able to penetrate the Predators defense and create scoring opportunities. If MacKinnon can penetrate the defense it gives Colorado at least a fighting chance in the series. Because Colorado has finishers such as Mikko Rantanen and captain Gabriel Landeskog.
Nashville has one of the best, if not the best defense in the league. It will not be an easy task for MacKinnon and the Avalanche to get many scoring chances. So when Colorado does get a chance, they need to convert. If they lack finish it could be a pretty short series for Colorado.
Jonathan Bernier: Needs To Be a Factor
Colorado will be relying heavily upon its backup goalie Jonathan Bernier to be halfway decent against a superior Predators club. Bernier is actually a solid goalie, not among the top in the league when you make a list of top 10 goalies in the NHL, but for a backup he gets the job done. But the thing is he will be the starter and he has to play like a number one goalie.
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He put up decent numbers when he filled in for Semyon Varlamov but he needs to be able to steal a game or two in the series if the Avalanche intend on advancing.
Colorado Defense versus Nashville’s Offense
This is going to be the key for Colorado. Throughout the regular season, Colorado kept itself in most of the games against Nashville because they played good defense. If Colorado is hoping to dethrone the Predators as Conference Champions they will need to be a tight checking team that forces turnovers and disrupts Nashville’s offensive flow.
If Colorado can stop Nashville’s offense from the point it will be a big victory towards containing the Preds attack because Nashville has one of the best shots from the point with PK Subban sniping it from the point.
I am going with Nashville in five.
I think it will be a close series in terms of scores. However, I just think Nashville is too deep for the Avalanche to contain. The Predators just have so much talent in so many pieces. I think Nashville is going to have a long playoff run and Colorado just not deep enough to upset them. If they have Semyon Varlamov they may have a chance to steal a game or two but since they do not that seems unlikely.
Colorado is a great story and I am happy for them. They earned the trip here, but they aren’t deep enough to make a serious run. But the future is bright in Colorado, especially if Rantanen improves as expected.