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Nashville Predators @ Colorado Avalanche Preview: Climbing Mountains

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The Preds continue their road trip with a Tuesday night stop in Colorado.

Colorado Avalanche v Nashville Predators Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

The Predators are desperate for a win as they head into Colorado on Tuesday night.

No, it isn’t a must win. Must wins won’t come for the Predators until at least after Christmas. But the Predators don’t want to find themselves digging out of too deep a hole when 2017 comes around.

Some have made reference to the Anaheim Ducks and Pittsburgh Penguins of last year, hoping that the Preds early struggles are not a harbinger of a bad season. That’s fine, but it’s best to remember that A) the run that the Anaheim Ducks made in the 2nd half of last year is nearly unheard of and B) the Predators do not have Sidney Crosby.

So, how about the Predators just go ahead and start winning some games now, huh?

The Colorado Avalanche

Early on this season, the Avs are in probably better position than most anticipated. There’s a long way to go, but at 4-3-0 they’ve shown the ability to compete with most NHL teams night in and night out.

For the most part, the Avs are an average hockey team. They aren’t terrible, but they aren’t great. They’ve generated 2.71 goals per game and also allowed 2.71 goals per game. Both of these numbers put them right in the middle of the league, 16th and 15th. If that’s not the definition of “average,” I don’t know what is.

Coming off of a 3-2 win over the Coyotes on Saturday night, the Avs boast a couple of excellent goal scorers and playmakers in Matt Duchene and Nathan Mackinnon. Those two are the anchors of their top two lines, and they also lead the Avs with seven and six points respectively. Interestingly, there’s not much rhyme or reason to the Avs lineup beyond those two being on one of the top two lines. Take a look at their forward line breakdown, courtesy of HockeyViz:

Much like the Preds lineup, most of the Avs forward lines are switched up from game to game. First year coach Jared Bednar is showing he isn’t afraid to throw some surprises. The 3rd line, with Blake Comeau and Andreas Martinsen has some regularity, as does the 4th line with Cody Mcleod and Gabriel Bourque (GABBY!), but there’s not much of a trend to follow there. Either way, the Preds can count on some combination of Mackinnon, Duchene, Jarome Iginla, Gabriel Landeskog, and Carl Soderberg to be putting the puck on the net.

Defensively, same thing. Erik Johnson and Tyson Barrie have mixed it up with Nikita Zadorov on the top line, while Francois Beauchemin and Patrick Wiercioch are elsewhere down the line. Fedor Tyutin is out with an injury for now. Essentially this is a four man defensive crew.

In goal, Semyon Varlamov and Calvin Pickard are extremely average as well. Varlamov’s even strength save percentage is at .919%, and while Pickard’s is a walloping .963%, he’s seen only 45 minutes of even strength ice time in goal. These guys are more than capable of keeping games close, but also more than capable of putting games out of reach for the Avs.

The Nashville Predators

A quick revisit of last Saturday’s peek under the hood. Here’s where the Predators currently stand in some important statistical categories (from NaturalStatTrick.com) in the entire league.

  • Dead last in 5v5 shooting percentage at 4.3%
  • Dead last in goals for per sixty minutes at 1.25
  • 22nd in scoring chances per sixty minutes at 19.61
  • 17th in shots for per sixty minutes at 29.1
  • 26th in shot attempts allowed per sixty minutes at 59.8
  • 22nd in high danger goals allowed per sixty minutes at 1.56
  • Dead last in high danger save percentage at 80.39% (even though they are 3rd in high danger chances allowed per sixty minutes at 7.94)
  • 20th in Corsi percentage at 48.11 (the 3rd period against the Sharks bumped them up about 10 spots)

There’s a lot of bad going on out there. The team overall is not holding onto the puck, not doing much with the puck when they have it, turning the puck over in dangerous areas, not successful at suppressing shot attempts, and the net-minders are allowing too many easy goals.

Ladies and gentlemen, all of that leads to a terrible start. Honestly, it’s a wonder they even have five points. When you consider that exactly three of the five points they’ve earned came with their de facto 2016-17 lineup (the Penguins game was essentially an anomaly), you can see clearly the mess on their hands. Things need to be fixed, sooner rather than later.

The only way to do that is to go get results. No trades will be made, not this early. No major lineup changes are coming anytime soon. The Predators need to dig their way out of this funk with the players they have right now.

Reasons To Watch

  • The Avs recently called up prospect Mikko Rantanen to take a spot in the top six (and consequently bump Iginla to the 3rd line). He’s a fast scoring winger prospect that the Avs have been keen on since they drafted him in 2015. He has yet to register a point in 11 NHL games, but keep your eye on Rantanen tonight. He’s good.
  • With the team in disarray on the ice, about the only consistent forward every night is Viktor Arvidsson. He is such fun to watch. If you do nothing but watch Arvy, you’ll have a good time.
  • The defensive pairings seem set. The team was a puck possession monster in the 3rd period against the Sharks. Pekka Rinne has had more good games than bad. You have to feel like wins are coming. That’s a reason to watch for sure.

Pregame Entertainment

I do declare!

The Important Details

8:00 PM puck drop!

Sleep. Precious sleep.

TV: FS-TN

Radio: 102.5 The Game