Colorado Avalanche: Nashville Predators are True Marker of Bounceback

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 07: Tyson Barrie #4 of the Colorado Avalanche brings the puck back into play against the Nashville Predators in the third period at the Pepsi Center on November 7, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 07: Tyson Barrie #4 of the Colorado Avalanche brings the puck back into play against the Nashville Predators in the third period at the Pepsi Center on November 7, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

The Colorado Avalanche will face a litmus for their bounceback when they host the Nashville Predators.

The Colorado Avalanche won at home! Woo-hoo! They scored a touchdown against their opponent. Yes! They scored six goals in the second period, a franchise record! Yeah, buddy!

They beat the L.A. Kings, who have been bottom feeding in the NHL since the beginning of the season. Ooookay… Well, still that’s good because the Avalanche do have the nasty habit of playing down to their opponent. They didn’t do that on Saturday, so that’s a move in the right direction, right?

It can be. But the game against the Nashville Predators is a bigger indicator of whether the Avs have truly bounced back, or if they’re still just bouncing up and down.

Remember, this is still the team that have gone 4-9-2 since Stanley Cup coach Barry Trotz figured out how to solve Jared Bednar’s tactic of playing the top line until they puked by slowing everyone down.

And remember the team they’re playing is the Nashville Predators who technically are just above the Avalanche in the standings but realistically are several large steps ahead of Colorado in development.

And we’re down a cornerstone defenseman, Erik Johnson, who’s undergoing the concussion protocol after taking a puck to the face during the Kings game:

I was hoping for broken jaw. I mean, I’d prefer no Johnson injury, but with a broken jaw you just stick a cage around his head and he’s back pretty quickly. Concussion protocol… brains don’t like being bounced around in the skull, and you never know how long they’re going to pout. And Johnson has had a concussion. It’s been a while, but it can make a person more susceptible to worse symptoms next time around.

Heal well, Condor. Per the Avalanche website, he’ll be out at least for today’s and Wednesday’s game. He’ll have the All Star Weekend and bye week to recuperate.

Anyway, let’s look at a couple of indicators, besides a win, that the Colorado Avalanche are, indeed, over their slump.

How to Enjoy the Game

Game time: January 21, 1:00 pm MT
TV Networks: ALT, FS-TN (Preds’ Feed)
Radio: Altitude Radio (FM 92.5)

Better Goal Tending

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Semyon Varlamov certainly was better against the Kings than he has been in a long time. He recorded a .968 save percentage. However, that was preceded by goal tending that was below league average for most games dating all the way back to December 4 against Dallas (.813).

At the time of writing, the goalie hadn’t been announced, but I am rather thinking it might be Philipp Grubauer, who hasn’t had a start since the January 8 debacle (.700 save percentage). If he doesn’t start against the Preds, he’ll start against the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday, I reckon.

Either way, the goalie who skates into the crease has got to put up a solid performance. They’ve cost the Avalanche a few games recently, so they owe the skaters an impressive performance or two.

Consistent Offense

As noted, the Avs lost their minute-cruncher in Erik Johnson. While Johnson hasn’t been 100% himself, he’s a site better than most other defensemen on the team, barring a Samuel Girard (if he gets it together).

So, Colorado cannot count on defense to bail them out, not that they were ever super strong there to begin with. So, they’re going to need consistent offense.

The top line stayed the same, but here’s how the other three lines ran against the Kings:

Colin WilsonCarl Soderberg-JT Compher

Sven Andrighetto-Alexander KerfootMatt Calvert

Matthew NietoSheldon DriesGabriel Bourque

If you find yourself cringing in response to that bottom six, you’re not alone. Sure, they were serviceable against the lowly Kings, what with Sheldon Dries scoring a shortie and Calvert earning two assists. However, the Preds ain’t the Kings — no way those boys are going to make minced meat out of the likes of Ryan Ellis and Matthias Ekholm, much less P.K. Subban and Roman Josi, should they be unfortunate enough to cross paths with that behemoth pairing.

Nonetheless, some nice goal scoring is what we need to see from our high-octane offense.

Next. Captain Landy Should be More Famous. dark

Today marks the third of four games against Nashville. The Predators won in Colorado, while the Avs won in Nashville. Obviously, we’ll want to change that paradigm.

Like I said, today’s matinee game is the penultimate match before the All Star and bye week breaks. The Colorado Avalanche will host the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday, another game that will be a marker of how well the team has bounced back.