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Playoff Preview: Injury in net could give Avalanche advantage

The Nashville Predators may be without starting goalie Juuse Saros for round one.

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

Playoff time is here, which means assessing how the Colorado Avalanche stack up with the Nashville Predators in the first round. Does either team have the upper hand between the pipes? Let’s take a look at the situation.

Dynamic Duo in Colorado

The Avalanche will head into the playoffs with a healthy and solid starter and backup to start this Cup run. Darcy Kuemper and Pavel Francouz have been all that Colorado could ask for throughout the regular season but now is when management and fans will expect the most.

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JFresh Player Cards

Darcy Kuemper has always been a great regular-season goalie that hasn’t had a chance to appear in the playoffs, outside of looking damn good against the Avalanche in the 2020 playoff bubble as a member of the Arizona Coyotes. The Kuemperor has his opportunity to change that dialogue and show the league that he rises to the occasion. I’d like to see him improve that rebound control percentile in the playoffs.

Francouz has been one of the league’s best backups, and he’ll be great to have in a playoff structure that features games every other night. He has fifteen wins in twenty-one appearances and a .916 save percentage. There have even been talks of having back-to-back scenarios within some playoff series. This scenario alone makes having a trustworthy second option an advantage.

Predators Wounded

Nashville’s starter throughout the season, Juuse Saros, had a great year but looked to have injured his ankle against the Calgary Flames this past Tuesday. The Preds have put forth no official timeline, but rumors have circulated that he could miss several weeks.

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That leaves Nashville with a difficult decision between David Rittich and Connor Ingram. Ingram and the Predators blew a four-goal lead over the Arizona Coyotes on Friday and Rittich gave up four goals on fifty shots the last time he faced the Avalanche. That was Game 81 of the regular season, and Colorado went without many of their top players.

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Looking at the player cards, you can see Saros is a much better option than Rittich and Ingram. Unfortunately for them, they may not have a choice.

Who has the advantage?

If Darcy Kuemper rises to the occasion, the Avalanche may have the best goalie in the tournament, much less in this series. We have seen flashes of absolute brilliance from Kuemper, and I’m excited to see how he responds to the pressure of playoff hockey.

Some goalies have it in the playoffs in a way that surprises even them. Remember Andrew “the Hamburglar” Hammond stepping in for the Avalanche and standing on his head against Nashville in 2018. If Rittich or Ingram do start and neither of them can play uncharacteristically well, Colorado has the clear advantage in net.