From the Staff’s POV: Avs/Preds, We Got This

Good morning sports fans! The Avs and Preds face off Thursday so we’ve asked our trusty Burgundy Rainbow staff to commit to a series prediction along with a key to success for the good guys. Smart money is going 6 to 1 Nashville but that means opportunity more than crisis, right?

 

Who will win the series and in how many games?

SeaMill: I don’t think it’s just my fan boi, burgundy tinted glasses when I say I think the Avs win in 6 games. The Avs have not been good against the Preds this season, but that’s good coming into the series in my opinion. The Avs are due for a better showing after not winning a single game against the Preds over the course of the regular season. It’s going to be a tough series for sure, but after squeaking into the playoffs these boys are high on confidence right now and they are hungry. Preds are going to win the first game which will just fuel the Avs even more to come back hard, especially during their game in Denver. MacKinnon will step up and we will see another resurgence of Jost having a second offensive threat with Jost’s line. The only that will be interesting to see is whether Bernier can come back into form and Stonewall the Preds.

QueenJK: Nashville will win the series but it will be more competitive than most expect. I predict a loss in game seven. The Avs will come out and steal one game on the road and then perform well at home. It will be interesting to see if the “just happy to be here” perception changes if the Avs can manage to win a game or two.

Steph: Colorado’s lack of depth will be exposed violently. I do think they’ll win specifically game 3 at home. There’s even a decent chance they take game 1, for reasons I laid out on the last episode of Burgundy Radio–namely that the Avs come in with Intensity Momentum from having been playing for their lives (even if they haven’t been playing well for it, except the last game) whereas Nashville hasn’t had much to play for in a while, and might need that game to tune up to playoff speed. So yeah, Colorado win game 3 and steal one of the road games, but that’s it. Nashville are just a powerhouse. The only way they win this series is if Jonathan Bernier and Nathan MacKinnon go back into 10 game win streak beastmode. Predators in 6.

Rudo: Preds in 5. The Avs road woes are no secret this year and the Predators were one of the few teams in the league to win at home as often as the Avs did. I’m hopeful that the Avs can pick up at least one win at home for the crowd and fandom but, frankly the Avs are no where near the level the Predators are on. Our forward depth is anemic at best and while our defense is the best it has been in a long time, when you compare to the Preds it’s no contest. Combine that with the critical injuries to EJ and Varly and there’s just no way this thing goes our way. It’s been a fantastic year and even if the Preds sweep us clean we should be incredibly happy to have made the playoffs at all.

Mike: Preds in 5. This Nashville team is super deep, has arguably the best D corp in the league, an elite goalie (one-year younger than Roy was in 2001), and they play a relentless and stable style of game. They learned a lot as a franchise last season and I feel like the deliberate path that they’ve taken over the last 5-10 years in building for lengthy post-season runs will be too difficult for the lightning-in-a-bottle Avalanche to overcome. While a solid goalie, I don’t see Bernier stealing games and missing Johnson will seriously inhibit Colorado’s ability to defend the multiple skilled lines that Nashville will roll out. Our home game magic will eek out a single, dramatic win, however.

Professor Oak: I’m going to be short and sweet here.  I think the Preds win in 5, maybe 6 if the Avs are super competitive/lucky.  I just don’t think there’s much of a chance here. The Preds defense is going to shut down any iteration of that top line, and everyone else.  The Avs D is banged up and missing EJ. It’s going to struggle. All I want is the Avs to not get blown out.

The Voice of Vlad: I mentioned on the most recent episode of Burgundy Radio that Skeptic Vlad says, “Predators in 5” and that Fan (and Season Ticket Holder) Vlad says, “Avalanche in 6.”  I went out on a limb prior to Game 82 not feeling very confident that the Avalanche would take the victory, and they came through against a STL team that has had their number ever since moving to the Central Division.  Is another improbable victory over another division rival (who, like STL, have had their number) in the future for this young team? I’m going to say yes. The Avalanche will split the two games in Nashville (NSH wins Game One, COL wins Game Two), take BOTH Games Three and Four on home ice, lose Game 5 in Nashville, but move onto the second round with a Game Six victory on home ice.  For all of the road woes this team had during the regular season, they only need one road victory to take home ice advantage. One win, regardless of how or when it comes on the road, could be exactly what turns the series.

Ace O’Dale: I really want to believe,  I really do. I really want to have that Burgundy-colored confidence which says the Avs will win this series against the Perds. But, I just don’t see it happening. This Nashville team has only one glaring injury – Weber – yet continues to fire on all cylinders. They have a deep defense and multiple scoring lines contrasted to Colorado’s corresponding deficiencies. Frankly, I’d be delighted to see the Avs win a couple or even force the series to seven games. This season has been considered by most as a developmental year. Even if the team had missed out on the playoffs, this year would be seen as a monumental success in rebuilding from the previous season’s disaster.

However, once in the post-season, there is always the potential for a deep run. Working in the Avs favor: A) over the past thirty seasons, nearly 25% of President’s Trophy winning teams have lost in the first round, and B) I just suck at prognostication. (Interesting side note: also over the past thirty seasons, only 25% of President’s Trophy winning teams go all the way to win the Stanley Cup.)

jdkpirate: I am going full Burgundy Rainbow on the playoffs. Since I was one of the few people who started the season thinking they might actually be fighting for a playoff berth, I am putting on the full Burgundy-colored glasses and saying the Avalanche will be able to upset ‘dem scury dawgs. Hoist the mains’ls and raise the jolly roger – er – Avalanche wave. I’m going with Colorado winning in six. They be stealin’ some booty – er – a win – in one of the first road matchups and bringing the wins at home.

No Need To Yelle: I think the Avs have the drive and will power to take this series further than most national pundits will, but ultimately Nashville will prove too strong of competition.  For me it’s Nashville in 6. I think we take a game from them in Nashville and they take 1 from us in Colorado. For the Avs, to push this series to 6 or 7 games would be a huge moral boost heading into next season.

earl06: Like the rest of the staff I’m struggling between being positive and being realistic. Do I think the Avs can win the series? You bet, and there are plenty of rational reasons why. Lots of pressure on the Preds to match and beat last year’s performance, the Avs are easy to look past when the goal is 16 wins away, the Avs kick major ass at the Pepsi Center so one road win and the situation becomes dicey. At the end of the day it is not likely they win the series and going on that I think Nashville takes it in 6 games.

 

  • Putting all the predictions together, we have 3 for the Avs, 8 against and 6 games seems to be the consensus. It’s not exactly the safe pick, if I had to bet my house I’d probably tend towards 5 or even 4 games but chaos usually reigns supreme in round 1.

 

Who or what perhaps is the key to the Avs success in the series?

SeaMill: Everyone stepping up is going to be key. We need depth to step up huge because Preds are going to be good at shutting down the top line. Jost’s lines performance is going to be very important. Bernier needs to step up and make sure that he doesn’t get hurt, we can’t win the series with Martin/Hammond.  The other thing is that, in my opinion, the Avs are going to need a big mentality change. They need to go into playoffs with a completely different mindset. Playoffs are a whole different ball game.

QueenJK: It should go without saying that the Avs will need their goal scoring and good goaltending to continue in order to have a shot in this series. They can’t play catch up hockey and expect to win. Outside of that, the defense will be key in this series and will need to hold their own against Nashville’s superstar group.

The Avs will head into this series with a combined 11 games of playoff experience from this defensive group led by Tyson Barrie taking over number one duties with only two and a half games of playoff experience. (Here’s hoping that Barrie gets the full rodeo this time.) Then two young defensemen in Nikita Zadorov and rookie Sam Girard taking top four duties in their first taste of NHL playoffs. Rounding out the group are at least two and perhaps three waiver pickups in Mark Barberio, Patrik Nemeth and possibly Mark Alt. Nemeth leads the entire group with five games playoff games under his belt. That sounds rough on paper and set up for failure but in actuality the group has formed a pretty solid defensive core and have adequately filled the void Erik Johnson left behind as best they can. Girard will get a chance to show what Nashville gave up on a big stage and Zadorov will get to prove that the Avs didn’t trade Ryan O’Reilly for nothing. They will have to continue that high level play to set up the Avs to have success in the postseason and I believe this group of defensemen will be up to the task.

Steph: Colorado are doomed if they try to out-defend, out-Good Hockey, the Predators. They’re just not up to the task, not yet. The coaching staff needs to free up Colorado’s scorers to just go wild. If you give up a few chances, so be it. You’re gonna do that anyway because Nashville are great and Colorado are mediocre. The trick is making sure you get your own cracks at Pekka Rinne. If Bednar manages his team so that Nathan MacKinnon is free to go off as much as possible, I’ll take Colorado to outscore anybody’s top line. That leads to the other lines, which brings us to Jonathan Bernier. He has shown he can be up to the task. The question is how many great games he can string together here because “good” won’t cut it. Of course, all of that falls down if Bednar et. al. can’t find a way to enable MacKinnon. Can’t win if you don’t score and there’s no evidence the Avs can trust secondary scoring yet. Keys, in order: Enable MacKinnon, let him go off, lodge a rabbit’s foot deep inside Jonathan Bernier, and have as much fun as possible.

Rudo: Obviously for the Avs to have any chance of competing in this series Mackinnon and Bernier need to be transcendently good. If the Avs really want to take on the Predators and push this to a series that they have a chance to win they need the depth forwards to find their form. Jost, Compher and Kerfoot specifically are the three that the Avs would love to see take a step with this playoff opportunity. Let’s not forget what this year was always about, developing the youth. Jost would be my pick for breakout playoff player for the Avs, he’s put together a solid 2nd half to the year and at moments during the stretch run has shown up in the clutch. Kerfoot and Compher on the other hand have had less than ideal stretch runs and it would be gravy for them to find their first half game shape for the playoffs.

Mike: The only way, and I mean ONLY way, the Avs have more than a modicum of sporadic success in this series is if MacK’s line returns to dominant form AND a true 2nd line of scoring emerges. Relying on Soda’s line to lug the puck out of the D zone and sustain offensive chances while the young guys just get 12 min of experience will not provide success for this team.  They need two lines working at a high clip and that is super-hard to do against the Preds and especially with our super-young personnel. The Preds aren’t an overly physical team like some Western clubs, but they’re good at taking away pucks/chances (2nd in takeaways) and they win a ton of faceoffs (nearly 10% better than Colorado). They’ll have the puck early and often and will take it when they don’t. Honestly, I expect at least on Hammond sighting in a blowout.

Professor Oak: Jonathan Bernier needs to go full on Jean-Sebastien Giguere in the playoffs if the Avs even want a chance.  Pekka Rinne needs to return to his 2012-2016 form of being super overpaid and bad yet somehow seen as good by everyone when he wasn’t.  Avs have already lost the injury/health battle. They don’t have the depth. They do have the best player though. This series depends on Nathan MacKinnon almost just as much as it depends on Bernier.

The Voice of Vlad: These are the keys to potential Avalanche success for this series.  First, offense. Both teams weren’t far off in the “Goals For” category during the regular season; in fact, ten goals were the difference between both teams (NSH – 267, COL 257).  The Avalanche are going to have to get contributions from absolutely everyone, especially at key moments when any of Nashville’s big four defensemen are not on the ice. This would be prime moments for the rookies like Tyson Jost and JT Compher to force Nashville to deploy its defense differently, which could open things up for the Soderberg and MacKinnon lines.  Second, goaltending. Jonathan Bernier is going to have to have the series of a lifetime if the Avalanche have any hope of advancing. Bernier is no stranger to stringing together a successful run without a top four defenseman in front of him this season, having done so without Tyson Barrie in the lineup as the Avalanche went on their ten game winning streak earlier in the season.  He may not have the playoff experience like Pekka Rinne does, but that also frees him from the “expectations” of trying to duplicate prior playoff success. Not having that mental aspect weighing his game down may give Bernier an unexpected edge over his counterpart in the Nashville crease. Finally, home ice. The Avalanche matched Nashville’s home record for wins (28) and had the best home ice penalty kill during the regular season (91.8%), allowing only 10 goals during penalty kill events.  Keeping the opposition’s power play powerless may only serve to frustrate a Nashville team that may be feeling pressure to repeat or exceed their results from a season ago.

Ace O’Dale: If this team can beat the Perds, they can go deep in the playoffs. To do so, though, they need to suddenly discover how to consistently play the complete game they demonstrated against the Blues in game 82. They had scoring from Mack’s line, points from secondary lines, (mostly) tight defense, and Bernier was solid. To go all the way in the 20+ game grind that is the playoffs requires this total effort every time.

Teams like Nashville and Tampa have been known this season for consistently playing that complete game. Colorado has shown flashes of it which gives me hope for next season. Go Avs!

jdkpirate: The Avalanche need to embrace the pirate way, throw caution to the wind and play like they have nothing to lose. When they do, they can collect the treasure – wins. While the Cap’n and his mates need to be playin’ der best, as does Mr. Bernier, the scalliwag line of Andrighetto-Jost-Kerfoot could be the real difference makers if they find a way to seize the chance to score some goals. Go get dat treasure!

No Need To Yelle: From the Chronicles of Captain Obvious, the Avs go as Nathan MacKinnon and the first line go.  If they impose their will in the same way MacK and Stastny did in their first two games against the Wild back in 2014 then there’s going to be hope in Mudville.  That would be enough to make the series a success from an entertainment standpoint.

If success is defined by winning the series, then Colorado will need the Jost/Andrighetto/Kerfoot line to score at 5v5 with regularity to take some of the pressure off of the notion that your best guys have to be your best guys.  So as a specific answer to the question: Secondary Scoring is the key to the Avalanche success.

earl06: First and foremost Bernier has to keep them in games, if that doesn’t happen all bets are off obviously. Taking that as a given for the sake of argument, I look at the Kerfoot line as the key. The Avs aren’t going to win a bunch of 2-1 games, so outscoring a Nashville team that’s not dangerous all the time is the best chance of moving on to the 2nd round. To do that, the young trio of Sven Andrighetto, Alexander Kerfoot and Tyson Jost have to bring their production to a higher level. If those guys can score 6+ goals at even strength the Avs will take the series.

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We’ll have another installment on GameDay Thursday so keep an eye peeled for that. In the meantime bet the house on 29 in Burgundy!

 

earl06

Scoring LW, punchy climber for the Ardennes classics, spirit guide

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