The Nashville Predators are coming off a complete game Saturday night, dismantling the Carolina Hurricanes with 4 PP goals and a 5-2 win. The eighth consecutive sellout has Nashville buzzing and pushing to catch up to Detroit, St. Louis and Chicago for a shot at the division crown.
The Avalanche are rallying to get into the playoff mix going 8-2-0 in their last 10 games with Ryan O’Reilly leading the way with 29 points. This is the first of a back-to-back against Nashville with a day off in between.
In what should be a great goaltending battle, who will come out victorious in the first match?
This Year’s Series: N/A
Looking at the Avalanche: The goaltending for the Avalanche is a combination of experience and youth. J.S. Giguere and Semyon Varlamov are two outstanding backstops putting up decent GAA and SV%, but their win-loss record begs to differ. The Avalanche are getting back on the right track as far as pulling together some wins and the games have been close. Having two able bodied goalies is tantamount to staying in the hunt and keeping the #1 goaltender from over-exertion.
Point-wise, Ryan O’Reilly has been the surprise leader for the Avalanche. Colorado boasts an impressive mixture of youth and veteran leadership at forward and this makes them a formidable adversary. Rookie phenom, Gabriel Landeskog is currently fifth in points on Colorado and has a team leading +10 rating. The biggest concern has been Colorado’s five on five play since only 7 players have a positive plus/minus rating with the worst being a -12 (Jan Hejda).
Looking at the Predators: With Colin Wilson back in the lineup, the Predators gave the Hurricanes another player to keep an eye on and the rest of the team stepped up to fire four PP goals and sent the Predator faithful home very happy with a 5-2 win. Some had called for a stepping up of certain players and it was answered in the form of Fisher having a 3 assist night and Patric Hornqvist scoring 2 goals (should have been three) and Craig Smith breaking his goal-scoring drought.
Rinne was solid and made what would have been a game saving stop had the Predators not had such a large lead going into the third period. Although there have been some inconsistencies in Rinne’s play this season, when he is in the zone and tracking the puck well, not many teams have a shot at winning against the Predators.
For the Avalanche to win: Play a similar game to the Nashville Predators. It will be a war of attrition and the first team to flinch will get capitalized upon. The Avalanche have numerous scoring weapons and any one of them can force the hand of the Predators to get out of position and take a hooking or interference penalty. If the Avalanche can get more shots on net and screen Rinne, it might be a long night for the Predators.
Colorado also needs to stay out of the box themselves as a 21th ranked penalty kill against the 2nd best power play is a recipe for disaster. Expect Varlamov to start in goal after Giguere got shelled in a 4-0 loss to St. Louis.
For the Predators to win: Momentum. The Predators need to use this to go into Colorado and take the lead early. The Predators do not bode well after an extended period of time off (three-four days) and sometimes they come out flat after such a lay-off.
Having Craig Smith find the back of the net is a huge boost for the Predators. If Smith can return to his early season form, this will increase the offense and make a league-leading power play all the more dangerous.
Rinne just needs to keep playing like Saturday night and shutting down the opposition with highlight reel saves and smart decisions behind the net. With our defensive core clearing the crease and marching up the ice for scoring opportunities, this could be the start of the usual playoff push from the Predators starting at the midway point of the season.
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Stay HardCore, friends