by Taylor Parks
This can be summed up pretty easily, “They aren’t your daddy’s Avalanche team.”
After missing the postseason for the 3 consecutive years and having their worst season in franchise history (since moving from Quebec in 1995) during the 2016-2017 season, the Avalanche clinched their playoff berth in dramatic fashion. On April 7th, the Avalanche and the St. Louis Blues battled for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference and the right to play the Nashville Predators. It took the Avalanche 82 games, but by beating the Blues they officially punched their tickets to battle for Lord Stanley’s Cup.
So the question most Preds fans are asking, “What should the Predators expect?”
The Colorado Avalanche are young, fast, and (the most concerning) have nothing to lose. The Avalanche are playing with house money. After their abysmal year during the 16/17 season, almost nobody picked Colorado to make the post season. In fact, most “experts” picked them to finish near the bottom of the NHL after they traded away star forward Matt Duchene earlier in the year. In what was supposed to be a move for the future, the trade of Duchene sparked their young team and lit a fire under star, and possible Hart Trophy Finalist, Nathan Mackinnon.
Mackinnon has been one of the hottest and most consistent forwards in the NHL this year. He is a former first overall pick in the 2013 entry draft and currently serves as the Alternate Captain for the Avalanche. Mackinnon finished the regular season 3 points shy of the century mark. He finished with 97 points (39G-58A). Mackinnon will center Colorado’s top line and will be accompanied by Captain Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen. The top line has accounted for 243 points, or nearly 37% of the Avalanche’s point production.
The Avalanche are lead on defense by Tyson Berrie who leads the defense core with 57 points (14G-43A). Predators will also see a familiar face on one of Colorado’s defensive pairings as Samuel Girard will make his Stanley Cup Playoff premiere against the team that traded him a few months ago. Girard has tallied 20 points in his rookie season (3G-17A) and will undoubtedly have some extra pep in his step as he faces Nashville. Their defense group is definitely not one of the weapons so look for the Predators to try and take advantage of their bottom D pairings.
The Avalanche’s goaltending situation might be the biggest question mark heading into the post season. Starting goaltender Semyon Varlamov has been ruled out of the first round with a lower body injury. Taking his place is veteran Jonathan Bernier who has played a total of 37 games (19-3-3) with a 2.85 GAA and .913 SV%. The Predators forwards should be licking their lips at the site of Bernier, but it should be noted that Bernier played some of his best hockey down the stretch to help the Avalanche make the post season. If they manage to chase Bernier from between the pipes, they will get to face Andrew “The Hamburglar ” Hammond, who has only played in one game this season.
The Avalanche will be rolling out 3 former Predators on Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena. Forwards Gabriel Bourque and Colin Wilson (questionable with an injury) are looking to take the ice while previously mentioned Samuel Girard should be skating on the 2nd defensive pairing for the Avalanche.
Stay tuned to Offthepipehockey.com for updates and an in depth Series Preview later this week!