It’s time to take a look at our stoic netminders for this upcoming series. While the Nashville Predators’ “starting” job is probably up for grabs, it’ll likely be David Rittich’s net for Game 1...at least to start.
Bryan reminded me the other day that I always seem to be writing about Darcy Kuemper, and it’s true. He’s your Game 1 starter for the Colorado Avalanche and we’ll look at his season below.
After signing with the Avalanche in the offseason, Kuemper posted some very good regular-season numbers, finding a place as one of the top netminders in the League this season. Kuemper faced the Predators when he was with the Arizona Coyotes back in the playoff “bubble” in 2020, and his play was phenomenal for the ‘Yotes. There’s many reasons the Avalanche are the best team in the Western Conference, and Kuemper is one of them.
Paul with Sportsnet says this about Kuemper:
“...but a scary slump in his last five games – in which he had save percentages of .892, .906, .909, .808 and .889 – is cause for concern.”
I’m not sure if the Avalanche are happy about Kuemper’s play as of late.
The 31-year-old Kuemper has a .921 Sv% over 57 games this season, going 37-12-4. That’s likely the benefit of playing behind an incredible defensive corps, but Kuemper could be a dark horse this series—he’ll make or break the Avalanche. His play with the puck is fine, but Kuemper can be a little adventurous, as seen below:
If Kuemper gets “off” his game, Nashville will have to take advantage of that. He posted a career-best 37 wins this season, and even though he doesn’t have a ton of “star” power, Kuemper is a reliable enough goalie to carry the Avalanche to the Western Conference final, if not further. If Kuemper can stay healthy, he has the ability to backstop Colorado through 16 wins to a Cup.
Nashville will want to exploit Kuemper’s glove hand. In last week’s shootout win against Colorado, Nashville was able to put at least two goals past Kuemper’s glove, as seen below:
Kuemper didn’t get a win against Nashville this season, though. There’s a glimmer of hope for you. Further, he doesn’t have a bunch of playoff experience—just 18 games.
Pavel Francouz will back up Kuemper. A rare right-catch goalie, Francouz has a .916 Sv% over 21 games. Francouz can be counted on, too.
Assuming the Avalanche defeat the Predators in Round 1, Francouz is likely to see some time in future playoff games, as Kuemper is quite injury-prone.