Layman: Rittich, Preds Outmatched In Game 1

Predators Avalanche Hockey
Posted at 5:42 AM, May 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-04 06:42:52-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — You would have had to be one of the most optimistic Predators fans to come up with a recipe in which the Preds could hang with the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed Avalanche without a healthy Juuse Saros in goal coming into Tuesday. After a 7-2 beatdown in game one of this first-round series, even those wearing gold-tinted glasses must acknowledge the obvious mismatch in this series.

The Predators probably wouldn’t beat the Avalanche with Saros. They’re not beating them without him.

The drop-off in goaltending when Saros is out of the lineup is hard to overstate. David Rittich made his first career playoff start Tuesday, getting the nod over AHL star Connor Ingram, but lasted just 15:04 before he was pulled after giving up five goals in just 13 shots.

Nathan MacKinnon blasted a one-timer off a feed from Mikko Rantanen just 12 seconds into an early power play. Just 22 seconds later Devon Toews skated in free and beat Rittich stick side for a 2-0 Colorado lead 2:42 into the contest.

It was a no contest.

Yes, Rittich will be the scapegoat for game one. To win in the playoffs, your goalie has to bail you out sometimes, and Rittich couldn’t do it Tuesday. But the awful start was far from being all on him.

Michael McCarron took a high-sticking penalty during a skirmish that led to an unnecessary power play and the MacKinnon goal. The Preds' defense let skaters free into the attacking zone for high-quality chances on multiple occasions in the first period with Toews and Arturri Lehkonen both capitalizing with goals.

The most damning indictment of just how overwhelmed the Predators were in the first period came on their lone power play. After struggling to get anything going, the Preds looked to reset, but miscommunication between Mattias Ekholm and Phil Tomasino led to a giveaway and Andrew Cogliano pounced on it. After Rittich stopped his first attempt, Cogliano was able to pound home the rebound for a shorthanded goal, and the onslaught was on.

The Avalanche stars also got the best of game one. The vaunted top line of MacKinnon, Rantanen and Landeskog were everywhere. MacKinnon had two goals and an assist. Landeskog, the Avs captain who made his return to the lineup after missing the final 23 games of the regular season due to injury, had a goal and an assist. And Rantanen contributed three helpers.

Matt Duchene scored twice in his return to Colorado, but the Predators had little else going offensively. The team's second line of Ryan Johansen, Luke Kunin and Phil Tomasino failed to fire a single shot in the game, which simply isn't going to help it.

Meanwhile, superstar defenseman Cale Makar had a goal and two assists in the Colorado romp, getting the better of Norris Trophy favorite and 95-point scorer Roman Josi.

The Nashville stars must be better for this series to become competitive, because as we saw Tuesday the goaltending isn’t going to steal any games.

It took just over two minutes for the Avalanche to grab control of this series. And while the playoffs require they win four games to advance, it’s hard to see how this series goes longer than that unless the Preds can find a way to somehow flip the script in game two Thursday.

And even a glass-half-full Predators fan must have a hard time seeing how that will happen after what we watched in game one.