The President-Trophy winning, defending Western Conference champion Nashville Predators are struggling with the No. 8 seed Colorado Avalanche.
And that’s not a bad thing.
While three other teams in the Western Conference playoffs have already advanced with ease (San Jose and Vegas swept their opponent, while Winnipeg won in five games), the Preds are actually becoming a better unit by failing to put away Colorado so early.
Remember, during Nashville’s run to the Stanley Cup last season, they were in control of every series (with the exception of the Final against Pittsburgh). The Preds drew first blood against Chicago, St. Louis and Anaheim, and although Nashville drew first blood against the Avalanche, the Preds don’t feel as in control of the series as they probably should.
In each game, Nashville has either started off slow or finished poorly. They did the former in games 1-3, but the latter over the past two games.
Meanwhile, Winnipeg (who finished with the second most points in the NHL during the regular season), stormed past the Minnesota Wild and are peaking at the right time. San Jose outscored the Ducks 16-4 in its sweep.
The Preds have struggled with penalties, aren’t playing the stellar defense we’re accustomed to seeing, and have yet to play a complete game.
But for fans, it’s not time to press the panic button. Facing adversity so early on, especially against a significantly weaker opponent, will help Nashville in the long run.
Once they put Colorado away over the next few days, they’ll be even more laser focused to avenge last season’s loss in the Stanley Cup Final. The slow starts will turn into quick strikes. The sloppy defense will transform into the susinct unit of devastation we’ve grown familiar with. The penalty minutes will be slashed in half due to more disciplined play.
On the other side, Winnipeg doesn’t have as much self reflection to do. They crushed Minnesota and are arguably the hottest team in hockey. As component as their coaching staff is, human nature says it’s difficult to notice your flaws when everything is going so smoothly.
Plus, having home ice during the marathon that is the postseason is one hell of an advantage.
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