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Round One Playoff Preview: Avalanche vs Predators

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The Colorado Avalanche take on the President’s Trophy winning Nashville Predators in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

NHL: Nashville Predators at Colorado Avalanche Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

It’s almost here. Twelve months after the worst season in franchise history, the Colorado Avalanche are about to face off with the Nashville Predators in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The series will kick off Thursday night in Nashville, and in case you’ve been living under a rock, here is the schedule:

*All times Mountain Daylight Time

  • Game 1: Thursday, April 12 at 7:30 p.m. - Avalanche at Predators at Bridgestone Arena
  • Game 2: Saturday, April 14 at 1 p.m. - Avalanche at Predators at Bridgestone Arena
  • Game 3: Monday, April 16 at 8 p.m. - Predators at Avalanche at Pepsi Center
  • Game 4: Wednesday, April 18 at 8 p.m. - Predators at Avalanche at Pepsi Center
  • *Game 5: Friday, April 20 at TBD - Avalanche at Predators at Bridgestone Arena
  • *Game 6: Sunday, April 22 at TBD - Predators at Avalanche at Pepsi Center
  • *Game 7: Tuesday, April 24 at TBD - Avalanche at Predators at Bridgestone Arena

*If necessary

The Season Series

For the second straight season, the Avalanche went winless against the Predators, coming away with only one point from an overtime loss last month.

The Predators outscored the Avs 17-8 over the four games, a total that is skewed a little given that the shot attempt total (222-209) suggests a much closer series.

How the Teams Rank

We all know the discrepancy in the standings. The Predators captured the Presidents’ Trophy by finishing first overall int he regular season. On the flip side, the Avalanche were the last team to qualify for the playoffs, finishing ten wins and 22 points behind Nashville. Beyond the standings, here is a look at how the teams ranked in key categories this season:

League Rankings

Avalanche - Predators
Avalanche - Predators
10 Goals For 8
15 Goals Against 2
30 Shots For 16
27 Shots Against 21
6 Team Shoting % 12
8 Team Save % 1
22 5v5 Goals For 8
7 5v5 Goals Against 1

Team Comparison at Even-Strength

Colorado Avalanche

  • 3.1 goals per game, all situations (10th)
  • 47.4% Corsi-For (29th)
  • 48.2% scoring chances for (22nd)
  • 46.4% high danger chances for (30th)
  • 46.1% expected goals for (29th)
  • Team shooting percentage: 9.3% (6th)
  • Team save percentage: 91.9% (8th)

Nashville Predators

  • 3.2 goals per game, all situations (8th)
  • 51.1% Corsi-For (12th)
  • 49.4% scoring chances for (17th)
  • 48.8% high danger chances for (18th)
  • 50.9% expected goals for (15th)
  • Team shooting percentage: 8.9% (12th)
  • Team save percentage: 93.2% (1st)

Special Teams Comparison

Colorado Avalanche

  • Penalty kill: 111.7 shot attempts allowed per sixty minutes (28th), success rate 83.3%
  • Power play: 89.6 shot attempts for per sixty minutes (31st), success rate 21.9%
  • Penalty differential (penalties drawn - penalties taken): 26 (6th)

Nashville Predators

  • Penalty kill: 99.1 shot attempts allowed per sixty minutes (8th) , success rate 81.9%
  • Power play: 103.3 shot attempts for per sixty minutes (15th), success rate 21.1%
  • Penalty differential (penalties drawn - penalties taken): -28 (25th)

*Thanks to OnTheForecheck for helping with the numbers

The Goalies

Nashville: Pekka Rinne (42-13-4, .927 sv%)

Colorado: Jonathan Bernier (19-13-3, .913 sv%)

From Cat Silverman's incredible playoff goalie primer over at The Athletic - a definite must read

The David and Goliath goaltending storyline this season is alive and well in the Nashville-Colorado series, and it could make for some of the most exciting hockey across the board.

Barring a major upset, the Vezina Trophy is Rinne’s to lose this year...

Rinne’s numbers suggested he was headed for decline before the 2016-17 season, when he started to turn things back around. This year, he’s been calmer, quieter and more efficient on his feet, adding an element of control to his footwork that took his wild style and made it that much more dangerous for his opponents.

Across the ice, Bernier wasn’t even supposed to be the starter; Semyon Varlamov had been by and away the stronger performer in recent weeks before going down with yet another injury on the year. Between Bernier and Varlamov, the pair have been injured nearly the entire year, trading off time spent on injured reserve while either Spencer Martin or Hammond sits as the No. 2. Neither Martin nor Hammond have inspired much confidence, either, and the team’s shockingly weak goaltending depth chart has left them with no other options. As a result, they’ve ridden the healthy starter until his partner returned from injury, then watched as he succumbed to another injury himself...

A dialed-in Bernier is dangerous to underestimate. With a narrow butterfly and good torso movement, he’s quick on his feet and recovers well after his first save. His biggest kryptonite has always seemed to be his own confidence level, but he can go on stretches of being nearly unstoppable — as the Avalanche quickly found out in January, during his first long stint replacing Varlamov as starter. When he’s not worried about conceding starts to Varlamov, he plays a game that quickly reminds fans why he was pegged as a starter for so long.

Key Players for the Opponent

Unlike the Avalanche, the Preds are an incredibly balanced team. Nashville’s top forwards play nearly five minutes less per game - a result of being able to roll three dangerous offensive lines. While the team is very deep, here is a look at some of the more notable players the Avs have to look out for

Filip Forsberg - The 23-year old has turned into a legitimately elite winger in the NHL. Though he missed 15 games this season, Forsberg finished with 26 points and 64 points - leading the team in scoring. He is a strong, fast possession driver that is going to be a handful for the Avalanche to deal with.

Viktor Arvidsson - The other high-end winger on the team, Arvidsson led the Preds with 29 goals this season. He’s quick, he’s elusive, and he knows how to get open to create scoring chances. He’s the trigger man that the Avs are going to have to keep close tabs on.

Ryan Johansen - While he may not put up the offensive numbers you expect from a player with his contract, Johansen has turned himself into a high-end two-way center. He is going to be tasked with shutting down Nathan MacKinnon in this series, an assignment that could be the difference in winning and losing games in this series.

The Top-4 Defensemen - It’s the strength of the team. Between P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm, the Predators have four guys that can play in the top pair of just about any team in the league. Both Subban and Josi are going to get Norris votes this year and Ryan Ellis has proven once again - when he got healthy - that he’s one of the most underrated two-way defenders in the game. If the Avalanche are going to have any chance at winning this series, they are going to have to find a way to exploit the best blueline in the NHL.

Coverage

The games will no longer be on Altitude now that we’ve moved into the playoffs. Luckily, this series drew NBC’s best play-by-play crew (though I suspect NBC thinks it’s the B or C team).

Kenny Albert, A.J. Mleczko and Brian Boucher will be calling the games. Fand of the Avs and Predators lucked out because Brian Boucher might be the single most underrated analyst in hockey today. He’s great and we should get an incredible broadcast for these games.

For those who don’t have NBCSN, you can stream all of the games at NBCSports.com

On top of NBC’s coverage, make sure to check out out sister site OnTheForecheck for a Nashville perspective on this series.