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How the Colorado Avalanche can beat the Predators

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There is a way for the Avalanche to take advantage of Nashville’s weakness

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at San Jose Sharks Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

When you look at the predictions for for the first round of the NHL playoffs, there really isn’t anyone giving the Colorado Avalanche. Everyone is picking the Nashville Predators in this series - heck most people don’t even think the Avs will win more than a single game.

It makes sense. The Predators won the Presidents’ Trophy. They were the best team in the NHL over the 82-game season. Add to that the fact that the Avalanche haven't won a game against Nashville in two years and this series has mismatch written all over it.

That said, the Avalanche have already shocked the world by making it this far. Why stop now?

Yes, the Predators are an incredible team, built around the best defense in the league, but their biggest weakness also happens to play into Colorado’s biggest strength.

This season, Nashville led the NHL in points, goals against, and save percentage, but they also led the league in minor penalties - by a wide margin. The Preds go to the box an awful lot for a team that wins as many games as they do. That’s good news for Avalanche fans because anyone who watches this team play on a regular basis knows that the powerplay is one of their biggest strengths.

Not only are the Avalanche good on the powerplay, they get a lot of them. Only the Calgary Flames drew more minor penalties than the Avs did this season.

The Colorado Avalanche had a breakout season offensively this year, a big reason for that was the powerplay. With a 21.9% success rate, the Avs ranked second in the Western Conference with the man advantage.

The Predators are decent enough at killing penalties. From January 1st until the end of the season, the Preds had an 81.3 success rate - good enough for 10th in the NHL. Their PK is good, but not great.

The Avalanche powerplay is really good - particularly the top unit. Tyson Barrie, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen all sit in the league’s top-20 for P/60 on the powerplay. Colorado’s 66 man advantage goals this season were the second most in the league behind Pittsburgh.

The Avalanche are an elite powerplay team and the Predators have a hard time staying out of the box. There is a recipe for success here.

Of course, it’s not a sound strategy to count on your opponent to go to the box. That’s especially the case in the playoff when referees tend to let a lot more slide. Stick infractions go way down in the postseason as the “let them play” mentality takes over.

Minor Penalties

RK TEAM PIM Minor Hookin Tripping Roughing Holding Interference Slashing High Sticking Cross Checking Holding Stick Goalie Interference
RK TEAM PIM Minor Hookin Tripping Roughing Holding Interference Slashing High Sticking Cross Checking Holding Stick Goalie Interference
1 Nashville 928 316 36 59 32 33 32 40 19 25 3 5
9 Colorado 731 289 34 44 35 28 31 43 24 18 3 4

That said, given how this season has played out, the Predators will likely end up taking more penalties in the series. If they do, Colorado’s proficiency on the powerplay might be enough to negate the advantage the Preds have on the blueline and in net. If the Avalanche are going to score many on Pekka Rinne, they’re going to have to do a lot of it at 5v4.

For Colorado to win four games, they’re going to need a lot of things to fall into place perfectly. A good powerplay is not enough to win the series on it’s own, but it’s an advantage the Avalanche have that might be enough to make things a lot more interesting that many anticipate.