NASHVILLE, Tenn. - You can’t afford to look past anyone or any game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. If you do, you’re in danger of getting beat.
Even as the last team into the playoff field, the Avalanche has proven to be a handful for the top-seeded Predators already in their opening round series, so first and foremost, the Preds need to be locked in on trying to close this series out tonight at 8:30 p.m. in game five.
But while players and coaches can’t afford to look ahead, there is added incentive to clinching a spot in round two tonight.
The Jets welcome the Wild to Winnipeg tonight with a 3-1 lead themselves, and look poised to wrap up their series, setting up a heavyweight showdown with the Predators next week. Those two Central Division rivals had the two best records in the NHL this season, meaning it will be a considerable challenge to get past the round of eight.
That fact makes tonight’s close out opportunity all the more important for both teams
For the Predators, a game five win over the Avalanche will give them the luxury of several days of rest before they would welcome their round two opponent to town for games one and two. That could be particularly beneficial for a team that just added forward Calle Jarnkrok back from injury for game four and may soon bring defenseman Yannick Weber back into the fold. Being fully healthy and rested going into what is expected to be a knock down, drag out battle would be advised.
Conversely, if the Preds fail to close out the Avs tonight they will have to board a plane Saturday to head back to Colorado for game six, which of course would also raise the potential for a game seven back in Nashville on Tuesday. Two more cross-time zone flights and at least one more physical, playoff contest could have significant adverse effects heading into the start of round two.
A game five win is not a must win for the Predators chances in this series, but it certainly won’t help their chances of reaching their ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup.
The Preds knocked the Avs to the mat with their 3-2 win in game four. Now they need to keep them there and make the ref call the fight tonight.
When you have a chance to close someone out in these playoffs, especially on your home ice, you have to take advantage.
This is a night for the Predators to assert themselves as the best team in hockey, so they can move on to the Jets.
That will be a significant challenge as it is. There’s no sense in making the job any tougher.