It was looking so easy for top-seeded Nashville after two games, scoring five times in each contest. A sweep appeared possible and at worst the Predators move to the next round after five contests.
But Colorado gave such a commanding performance in their Game 3 victory at the Pepsi Center in Denver, it felt like this series could last longer. There is not a scenario at this time in which the Avalanche will be favored in any game, nonetheless, this could become very intriguing the rest of the way.
The most obvious number that stands out in this series is – 5. That is home many goals each winning team has scored. If you are a fan of old-school playoff hockey and are looking for a goalie to stand on his head and have a game full of hard to believe saves, you should change the channel to another contest. The only time the goalies in this series are going to stand on their heads is after another failing out of position attempt to stop the puck and they lose their balance. We are 3-0 to the OVER side and that should continue.
From a shot perspective, Colorado has hardly been dominated and trails only 96-90 overall. They are getting attempts and often some very good looks.
To back the Avs in further games, they have to find answers to win more face-offs and make better passers. Colorado’s been whipped in the face-off circle, 108-79 by Nashville, which is 57.7 percent. With the league average about 50-50, coming into this series this was the largest playoff disparity possible, with Nashville 3rd in winning face-offs and Colorado dead last. It is playing out that way to the Avs detriment.
Both teams were in the Top 6 in penalty kills and thus far they have rather effective with the ‘Lanche at 7 of 10 and the Preds at 12 of 13.
Last year as the underdog and 8th-seed, Nashville might have lost in the playoffs, but they always played hard. That was not the case in Game 3, as they were up ice too often and with Colorado having powerful skaters and scorers like Nathan MacKinnon, they can change the score of any game in a hurry if the Preds bluelines are out of position.
If the Predators do not want this series to drag on, they have to play with more passion and be quicker to the puck and play better position defense on the back-end to prevent breakaways.
Colorado Has to Limit Miscues and Stay Aggressive
Though Nashville has the more veteran team, they are chippy and when things do not go their way and they will lose their poise. That is partly why they led the NHL in penalties. Knowing this, Colorado has to continue to force the issue, put the pressure on the Predators and see if they can make them crack.
The Avs did a better job passing in Game 3, after having a horrific two games in the Music City in which they were -20 in takeaways. (Just -1 in the prior contest) If Colorado can curtail mistakes and play Nashville on even terms, they could make it interesting, especially if they can ramp up the power play.
Nashville Remains Big Favorite
Because every positive and negative is magnified in the playoffs, one off-game can be forgiven with a follow-up victory. Thus, if Nashville wins Game 4 and wraps up the series on home ice, all will be forgiven. If they are pushed to a Game 7 and still win series, that will create doubt about them, unless they reach The Finals again.
I’ll stick with the Predators in 5.
Doug Upstone wrote this for ScoresandStats.com