With their loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Friday night, the Nashville Predators fell to the second wild card spot in the Western Conference and will match up with the Colorado Avalanche in the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Preds were up 4-0 in the first seven minutes of their contest with the Coyotes and it looked like they would lock up the top wild card spot. But the Preds fell asleep after the 1st period and the Coyotes, who have been eliminated from the playoffs for quite some time, dominated the rest of the game.
The Coyotes scored five unanswered goals in the contest to beat the Preds 5-4.
The result for the Preds is a meeting with the vaunted Avalanche, one of the top favorites to win the Stanley Cup this postseason.
This will be the 2nd ever meeting in the postseason between the Preds and Avs. Nashville took the series in six games back in 2018, only to lose the next round to the Winnipeg Jets in seven games.
The Preds took three of the four regular season games against the Avs this season, though it’s important to point out one of those wins came over a Colorado team that was riddled with COVID-19 infections. Colorado finished with 56 wins to Nashville’s 45 and have been one of the most dominant teams in hockey since October.
A crazy week of hockey for the Preds
It’s been an eventful week for the Nashville Predators as it pertains to their upcoming playoff run. Last Tuesday, the Preds played one of their most exciting games of the year against the Flames. It ended in disappointment for Preds fans, not just because of the overtime loss, but because top goaltender Juuse Saros left the game with an apparent injury.
As A to Z Sports learned on Thursday, the injury to Saros was a high ankle sprain. The Preds did not give a timeline for Saros’ return, but a source told A to Z Sports that it could be four to six weeks. That timeline would cause Saros to miss the first two rounds of the playoffs.
The Preds did end up clinching the playoffs later that night when the Vegas Golden Knights lost in a shootout to the Dallas Stars.
On Thursday, the Preds looked overmatched in the first period against the Avalanche, but mounted a comeback and won the game 5-4 in a shootout. That set up a potential cake walk to the top wild card spot: they needed only one point vs. the Coyotes or the Stars to lose one point to the Ducks. The Stars beat the Ducks in regulation and then the Predators blew a 4-0 lead to the Coyotes.
Juuse Saros injury hurts Preds’ playoff hopes
On Thursday night, David Rittich started in goal for the Predators, eventually earning his 6th win of the year against Colorado. Connor Ingram started Friday night in Arizona, saving 22 shots in the loss.
With Saros likely out, the question lingers: who will start in net for Nashville in Game 1?
My money is on Connor Ingram, though he didn’t do himself any favors on Friday. He looked uneasy in the net at times. Still, he’s been stellar for the Milwaukee Admirals all year and was excellent in his debut against the Minnesota Wild earlier this year.
David Rittich is certainly a capable backup, but the Preds have been hesitant to start him in big games all year. He finished the season 6-3-4 with an .886 save percentage.
Either way, losing Juuse Saros for any length of time significantly hurts the Nashville Predators’ chances in the playoffs. He’s been one of the best goaltenders in the NHL since taking over for Pekka Rinne. Without him, their hopes of making it past the first round are slim.
— Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —