Once upon a time the Nashville Predators were built on the strength of their back end but with some key departures, most notably Ryan Ellis, they have opted for a more balanced approach. Still, there are plenty of talented players to watch out for when the puck drops between the Colorado Avalanche and Nashville Predators on Tuesday night.
Anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock this season knows one of the major storylines in this round one series is the showdown between Roman Josi and Cale Makar. The two defensemen that finished first and second respectively in points and goals this season in their position, and will likely end up the winner and runner-up for the Norris Trophy when it is announced this summer.
Josi does it all for this Nashville squad. In addition to wearing the captaincy he led the team in scoring with 96 points despite two forwards each hitting the 40-goal mark. Josi himself topped out at 23 goals and both marks were career-highs for Josi. He is always on the ice averaging over 25 minutes a game with a lot of power play time and a few shifts on the penalty kill. Make no mistake, if the Predators pull off the upset Josi will be heavily involved,
The Top Four
This group may not be what it once was but Nashville is still receiving solid contributions from Mattias Ekholm who put up 31 points and takes on a big responsibility on the penalty kill. Alexandre Carrier in his first full season in the NHL is another defensive stalwart who put up 30 points. And then Dante Fabbro who is the youngest Nashville defender now in his third year pro set a career high of his own with 24 points.
Rounding out the defense core for Nashville are guys like Mark Borowiecki who is one of their heart-and-soul types who by far led the defensive core with 196 hits on the season. Another physical depth defender Jeremy Lauzon was acquired from the Seattle Kraken at the trade deadline for a second round pick who had originally been selected from the Boston Bruins in the expansion draft.
While both these teams have been making headlines for their offense the showdown between heavyweights Makar and Josi this series may come down to the depth on defense where the Avalanche should have the edge. Former Predator Samuel Girard on the second pair is a plus for the Avalanche and no team can match the weapon that they have in the third pair with the talent of Bowen Byram. It’s a competitive advantage that the Avalanche have a very strong puck mover and offensive threat on each pair and makes up the strongest defensive core in the postseason.