So I ended up watching the Avalanche-Predators game last night and, man, I was not expecting this series to be as competitive as it has been! As I was stating in my power rankings, Colorado looked like a team that was about to breath its last breath coming into the their playoff clinching game against St. Louis. And really, it was a precursor to a postseason that has seen them somewhat overachieve against arguably the favorites to win the Stanley Cup.
During Game 82, it was shocking to see Colorado, a team that was sitting at 47.9% score-adjusted puck possession all season long, outplay St. Louis that easily. Along with that, the Avalanche was able to cash in once on the power play, twice in 5-on-6 situations and once on 4-on-4 even strength play. Lastly, Colorado’s stars played like stars that night. Tyson Barrie, Nathan Mackinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog all played well to the point where all of them generated over 60% puck possession and delivered on the score sheet when it mattered most.
Fast forward to this playoff series and that quartet has racked up five of Colorado’s 11 goals and 10 of their 20 assists. That is literally the only way they would end up putting some dent into this series because Nashville is easily the deeper team across the board. Surely enough, the Predators have been out-attempting the Avalanche 145-120 at even strengh, but the underdogs have actually had the better of the scoring chances with a 56-45 scoreline and at high definition chances at 22-13. And this is considering that Colorado has started the series scoring once out of 13 tries off of their vaunted power play.
What really stands out this series is that none of the goaltenders have been playing well at all. It’s one thing if Jonathan Bernier and his 91.0% even strength save percentage is not up to the task. It’s another if Pekka Rinne can’t even crack 90% in that same category right now. What has made the Predators a formidable force in the playoffs last season was Rinne putting his injury history and poor seasons from 2012-13 to 2015-16. This has basically been Rinne’s regular season career in a nutshell.
2008-09 to 2011-12: 247 games, 92.1% save percentage, 58.6% quality start percentage, 0.210 point shares per hour
2012-13 to 2015-16: 197 games, 91.3% save percentage, 55.6% quality start percentage, 0.165 point shares per hour
2016-17 to 2017-18: 120 games, 92.3% save percentage, 61.7% quality start percentage, 0.209 point shares per hour
In short, not only has Rinne performed as well in his mid-30s as he was in his late 20s, he’s performed even better than that. I would be somewhat surprised if, at worst, Rinne is not in the top-three in Vezina trophy voting when it is all said and done. That’s just what makes this postseason output so shocking. To put things in perspective, the last time he has performed this poorly was when the Predators were beaten soundly by the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks in 2015.
I still think in some ways, Nashville is going to be fine. But, boy were they simply played off the rink before the first period was even over in Game 3. They really need to find a way to shut down the speed of Colorado’s forwards or this could end up being a more uncomfortable postseason than they expected. And…this is before they will have to face a Winnipeg or Minnesota and Las Vegas or San Jose sides that really do mean business. All four of those teams that I have just mentioned have net minders that also have what it takes to shut down the best offenses if things go their way.
So that is why I didn’t pick the Predators to win the Stanley Cup. But I still expect them to put in their best effort against this Colorado side. Last night was not one of them.