Layman: Nashville Predators outclassed, swept by Colorado Avalanche

Avalanche Predators Hockey
Posted at 5:16 AM, May 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-10 06:16:30-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The Predators played their best game of the playoffs Monday night in game four and it still wasn’t enough. The Avalanche scored three times in the final 11:05 to win the game 5-3 and the series via a 4-0 sweep.

For Nashville, it was a game that somewhat encapsulated the entire season. Good, but not nearly good enough.

No one expected this Predators team to be playoff-caliber at the beginning of the year. They should be commended for winning 45 games and earning 97 points in the regular season to reach the playoffs for an eighth consecutive season. But late-season struggles including four losses in the final five games, the final defeat coming when the Preds blew a 4-0 lead in a 5-4 loss at last-place Arizona on the season’s final night, dropped them from the first Wild Card spot in the Western Conference into the final playoff position.

No one gave the Predators a chance against the top-seed Avalanche, especially with star goalie Juuse Saros sidelined by injury. After being dominated in games one and two in Colorado — though Connor Ingram’s 49-save performance in his first career playoff start in game two may have served as the best chance to make this a series — Nashville played better in game three and better yet in game four, but the result remains the same. This is the first time the Preds have been swept in a playoff series in franchise history.

The chasm between making the playoffs and advancing has never seemed bigger. Colorado completely dominated this series, scoring five goals in the first 15:04 of game one and not trailing until 16:02 to play in the third period of game four. The Avalanche are clear Stanley Cup contenders, if not the favorites. The Predators just can’t compete.

Yes, they play hard. The Preds battled until it was time to line up for that final handshake. And yes, John Hynes – whose contract is up – got the most out of several players this season with Roman Josi turning in the first 90-point season by a defenseman in almost 30 years, Matt Duchene and Filip Forsberg becoming the first players in franchise history to score 40 goals, Tanner Jeannot leading all rookies in goals scored and Saros expected to be named a Vezina finalist as one of the best goalies in the league on Tuesday.

All of that was enough to creep into the playoffs (barely), but it was no threat to the Avalanche. Sure, it would’ve been nice to try to match up with a healthy Saros, but after the first period of game one goaltending was not the difference in this series. Colorado was just better.

The Avs possessed the puck nearly all of games one and two, scored seven goals in two of the four games and outscored the Preds 21-9 overall. For the series, Colorado held a lead for 138:39 while Nashville had one lead for 4:57 in the final period Monday night.

And when Forsberg finally broke free for his first goal of the series, slamming home a nifty pass from Mattias Ekholm on a tic-tac-toe play that started with Duchene, it felt like the Predators might finally get over the hump and find their way into the win column in this series.

But Colorado flipped the switch back on for the rest of the game. A Devon Toews blast beat Ingram to tie it 3-3. Then minutes later, Cale Makar, who had a NHL defenseman record 10 points in a four-game series, including a goal in the second period, delivered a beautiful pass to Valeri Nichushkin for the goal that proved to be the game- and series-winner.

It becomes a fourth straight year in which the Predators have failed to advance in the postseason, winning just five playoff games total in that span. And the questions about where the team goes from here are hard to answer.

Will John Hynes be back to coach? How much longer does a 72-year-old David Poile want to stay in charge as GM? Will Filip Forsberg re-sign and just how much will the Predators have to pay to keep him in Smashville? And all those questions are made more difficult by trying to evaluate a season in which the team probably overachieved on the whole, but at the most crucial moments demonstrated just how far it is from getting back to the contender that it was in 2017 and 2018.

As Ekholm told reporters after the game, “4-0 speaks loudly. We played to the best of our capabilities.”

The effort wasn’t the problem in this series. The Predators just aren’t an elite team. They saw it. Their fans saw it. The entire league saw it.

They were good, but not great this season. The question now is if that will be good enough to move forward with the status quo, or if major changes will be coming this offseason.