The Nashville Predators and Colorado Avalanche came into tonight’s game stricken with COVID, and each team was short of multiple players. This game shouldn’t have been played tonight, but more on that later. Outside of that, the Avs probably shouldn’t have played with scoreline saying the Avs fell 4-2.
To the game itself, it was all Nashville from the get-go. They were the superior team, chasing pucks down and getting chances on Pavel Francouz. There was nothing positive for the Avs, except COVID test results.
After the first media timeout, things got better. Nazem Kadri and Nathan MacKinnon each had chances down low stopped by Jusse Saros. But it would be Nashville who broke through thanks to Filip Forsberg who shot it through traffic to make it 1-0.
The Preds continued to pressure and push the issues, asking lots of questions of the Avs young defense. One piece of that defense in Justin Barron had some good puck movement late on in the frame where Darren Helm couldn’t find a shooting angle, and had a shot deflected out of play.
After an early breakaway from Kadri that wasn’t put in, the Avs got caught in penalty trouble. Francouz came up big time, making some phenomenal saves to give the Avs any chance specifically on a 5-on-3. It wouldn’t pan out though, as Tanner Jeannot got one to extend the lead to 2-0 on a designed tic-tac-toe power play goal.
However, Nashville got in their own penalty trouble. It lead to Mikko Rantanen getting the rebound off a deflection in front of the net and putting it past a lunging Saros to make it 2-1,
Just when it looked like the Avs had a chance, a missed shot by Barron wrapped around the boards perfectly to give the Preds a 2-on-1 that Girard put in his own net unintentionally, and doubling the lead once again 3-1 heading into the break. The goal went to Forsberg for his second of the game.
After a pair of penalties for each side was killed off, the Avs used their power play to build momentum. Just after the man advantage expired, Rantanen bulleted a pass across to Nichushkin who’d parked himself in front of the net and put it in to give the Avs a chance, 3-2.
It would be short-lived, however. Jordan Gross committed a cross checking penalty and on the broken play, the puck found its way to Roman Josi in the slot who put it glove side of Francouz and pull the Preds away 4-2.
The Avs did what they could, pulling Francouz with just under three minutes left and got a good number of chances on Saros but ultimately could not find any gap in the net. Nashville would add an empty netter from Mattias Ekholm in his own zone to wrap it up and put a bow on it 5-2.
The Avs got themselves in penalty trouble too much once again tonight. It lead to their demise, as the Preds scored multiple power play goals including the insurance goal in the third period. Because of how often the Avs find themselves down a man, their penalty kill is lacking and needs to find a solution.
Both goaltenders played phenomenal tonight. Francouz came in on short notice and despite the result, made some big saves to even keep his team in the game which was nice to see on his return for his first game since March 11th, 2020. On the other end of the ice, Saros was exceptional and kept the Avs out of the net in phenomenal fashion to get his team the win.
There was one big overarching story just minutes before the game that carried over into the match itself. Simply put, this game should not have been played tonight. The Predators had an all AHL coaching staff, and an AHL heavy roster. The Avs, after placing Devon Toews on COVID protocol earlier this week, had four more players join the list in Darcy Kuemper, Andre Burakovsky, J.T. Compher and Cale Makar. Jack Johnson came into the game midway through the first after getting two negative tests which was very odd after some inconclusive test results before the game.
While we can debate all we want on vaccine mandates/efficacy, protocols, etc, this is not the space for that. Rather than focus on that, the health of the players should come first and that was not the case tonight. In fact, they were given a choice of whether or not they wanted to play tonight and chose to do so anyway. Don’t be surprised if the Avs are shut down for the foreseeable future after this game tonight until after Christmas because of this COVID-outbreak.
Makar and Kuemper added to protocol close to game-time...joining Burakovsky, Compher and Toews. According to several sources, the Avalanche were given the option of not playing tonight, but voted to do so. https://t.co/IQmMWIli7d— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) December 17, 2021
The next scheduled game is this Saturday at home against the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. MT, but I would be thoroughly surprised if this game is played because of all the positive COVID tests in the Avs system.
Assuming there is a COVID pause for the Avs, they’d most likely stop play for 7-10 days barring anything really bad like the Calgary Flames are dealing with right now. If it’s closer to the seven day mark, their first game back could be away to the Boston Bruins on Thursday, December 23rd. If it’s closer to the 10-day mark, they’d return away to the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday, December 27th.