The Avs and Predators faced off 4 times this season with Nashville the victor each time. Let’s hope the Avs can cash in on some good play and a little luck to extend the series a little this time. The Preds are one of the best, if not the best team in the league and dominate many aspects of play but the Avs have a couple angles they can work to their advantage.
The Avs finished 27th in Corsi for percentage this season but in today’s NHL that’s pretty meaningless. The Wild are below them in 30th and the Caps are in the same neighborhood. Four of the top six teams in CF% are on a beach somewhere right now so having a high percentage of shot attempts just means that you shoot a lot. For the record, the Avs are at 47.6%, far beyond the Roy era, and the Preds are in 10th overall at 51.5%.
You wouldn’t think so but there are some statistical similarities between the teams. They both have expected goals against rates of 2.3 per 60. How they get there is different, the Preds suppress all shots well while the Avalanche are better at suppressing quality scoring chances. That seems like a subtle difference but it’s not and could work in the Avs favor. Both teams have a 5v5 shooting percentage of 8.2% and save percentages are very close at .932 for Colorado and .936 for Nashvegas. It follows that their PDOs are pretty much the same as well, both are somewhat high but for good reasons.
Looking for differences, the biggest one that stands out is that the Predators take more minor penalties than anyone else in the league, with 299 PKs this year, and the Avs draw more penalties than anyone in the league, with 296 power plays. This is a great matchup for the Avs. Sure, the refs swallow the whistles in the playoffs but they don’t call fewer penalties per game. They just let more stuff go because teams commit more fouls. Nashville’s PK is pretty good but it’s safe to assume the Avs are going to get plenty of chances. Looking at the other side, the Avs don’t take a lot of penalties, the Preds power play is just ok and the Avs PK is top 5 in the NHL.
On paper, the Avs have a substantial edge in the special teams battle in the series and that usually plays a part in who has success overall. Whether this is enough to overcome the advantage the Preds have at even strength is doubtful but it does give Coach Bednar and the staff something to exploit.
Head to head
As noted above the Avs managed but a single point in the 4 clashes with the Preds this year. Not good, but they did play them well twice in losses. Overall shot attempts at 5v5 favored the Avs 155-152 and yes there were some score effects in there. Shots on goal were more promising at 80-68, scoring chances even better at 80-53. Goal differential at 5v5 was only 6-8.
For a little background, the way this series was scheduled was just plain weird. The Avs played at Bridgestone twice early in the year, once even with Matt Duchene in the lineup. The games at the Pepsi Center were on the 4th and 16th of March. In each set, there was one strong game and one weak. Looking back at the March 4th game, that was the one where Ryan Ellis scored 6v5 with 1:06 to go, sending it to OT where both Mikko and Varly were totally out to lunch. The game on the 16th was the one where everyone decided to make Colton Sissons a hero despite controlling play for most of the game. Both of these were winnable but showed the tentativeness of youth vs guys that have been there.
– Nate vs RyJo. Johansen hasn’t been the scoring force in any of the games and he really hasn’t had to be. The Preds have put him out vs the Avs top line to shut them down and let depth and their wonderful defensemen take the prize. It’s worked for the most part but for the Avs to have a chance to win one game, much less the series, that matchup has to end up slightly in the Avs favor.
– Bernie. This is beyond obvious but Bernie has to keep them in games. He would have to steal a couple for a chance at a series win, which is a big ask, but just keeping it close is job #1. Not a knock on him at all but for he to win the goalie battle overall is going to take Rinne having a fairly pedestrian performance.
– Jared Bednar. Forget about his NHL experience level for a moment. He’s won championships at each stop on the way up the ladder. He’s learned a lot this year along with the players, it’s time to see what he can do to take some of the predictability out of the team in general and throw Laviolette some serious curveballs.
– Special Teams. Playing to a draw isn’t enough here. They have to make up for their deficiencies elsewhere on the PP and especially the PK.
– The Frat Line. This to me is the key to the next two weeks. If Andrighetto, Kerfoot and Jost find another level against most likely the Bonino line then things get really interesting. All 3 guys have had success to varying degrees this season but if they can become a scoring force then the Avs are 100% more dangerous. Like I said in our staff piece on Monday, if this line can produce 6+ goals at even strength then the Avs should win the series. That would be a massive leap forward for all 3 but they have the talent and capability to do it. JT Compher has been the ghost brother of the frat for the last few weeks thanks to ineffectiveness perhaps due to injury. If he’s healthy and plays his completely functional game then he draws into this paradigm as well.
Avs vs Preds in Nashville, 9:30pm ET on NBCSN and Altitude
Be there or be square.