All the Nashville Predators had to do to avoid a first-round playoff matchup with the Colorado Avalanche was hold on to a 4-0 lead in regulation against the Arizona Coyotes tonight. And, the Predators could have even avoided playing the Avs by just getting the game to overtime if it came to it.
But an absolutely epic collapse by Nashville in a regulation loss to the Coyotes means they slipped to the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference as the regular season ended, and thus will play the Avs a best-of-seven series starting Tuesday night at Ball Arena.
Here is the schedule:
May 3: 7:30 p.m. in Denver
May 5: 7:30 p.m. in Denver
May 7: 2:30 p.m. in Nashville
May 9: 7:30 p.m. in Nashville
May 11*: TBD in Colorado
May 13*: TBD in Nashville
May 15*: TBD in Colorado
— Adrian Dater (@adater) April 30, 2022
It will be the Avs’ second meeting with the Predators in their playoff history, the last time coming in 2018 when Nashville won in six games. The Avs were a heavy underdog that season, and now the roles are reversed. Nashville comes into the postseason not only with this horrible loss under their belt, but they have no No. 1 goalie. Starter Juuse Saros has a lower-body injury that some reports have said makes him highly doubtful to play in the first round.
It looked for most of the night the Avs would play Dallas in the first round, but the Predators simply collapsed against Arizona and failed to get the point they needed to clinch the first wild-card spot.
Frankly, I think the Avs got the better end of this deal tonight. I think the Avs match up better with Nashville than Dallas, who still have some big, tough players that are a handful in playoff-type games. They get a team with a serious issue now in goal, with David Rittich and Connor Ingram now the top two Preds goalies.
The Avs rested several top players in this one, including Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar. While the Avs played a pretty good game overall, Marc-Andre Fleury outplayed Pavel Francouz and that was the main difference.
Nazem Kadri scored the only goal for the Avs, who finished first overall in the Western Conference with 119 points.
The records go back to 0-0 now, and the Avs haven’t exactly inspired confidence with their play in the last two weeks. Will any of it matter in the playoffs, though, especially for an Avs team that might have a full roster by Game 1 against Nashville?
Along with MacKinnon and Makar, the Avs gave rests to Valeri Nichushkin, Devon Toews, Bo Byram and Darcy Kuemper.
The Avs continue to maintain that they are expecting captain Gabe Landeskog to return for Game 1 against the Predators.
The Avs seemed to emerge from the game with Minnesota with no new injuries, despite it being a chippy game at times. In fact, the Wild seemed to suffer the most physical damage, as Avs enforcer Kurtis MacDermid put Wild forward Marcus Foligno out with an open-ice hit that resulted in a 5-minute major.
Avs coach Jared Bednar said he thought the hit was more of an incidental hockey hit than anything. It’s possible, though, MacDermid could face supplemental discipline.
Bednar said this on the hit: “I see our guy going in to get both the man and the puck. He’s headed to the wall. Foligno gets a touch on it, our guy goes in kind of spread out, Foligno gets a touch on it then tries to get out of the way.”
About the game, and his coaching personnel decisions, Bednar said: “Resting guys was a no-brainer. In the standings, it didn’t mean anything for us.”