Will Nathan MacKinnon or Pekka Rinne be the top player in Avs-Predators playoff series?
Kiz: There was no better player in the NHL this year than the Avs’ Nathan MacKinnon. He would get my vote for MVP. But the playoffs are all about goaltending. Even at age 35, Nashville goalie Pekke Rinne is not only Vezina Trophy worthy, he’s the main reason to believe the Predators can win the Stanley Cup. So gaze into your crystal ball, and give me your reasons why MacKinnon or Rinne will be the more dominant character in this first-round series.
Chambers: Rinne is no stranger. The Avs have beat him before (but not this season). You’re right, a great playoff goaltender is difficult to beat. If you’re just talking about MacKinnon doing the damage, that won’t be enough. But when MacKinnon and his linemates are on top of their game, the Avs win. When MacKinnon is at his best, so are Gabe Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen. It just works like that with those guys, and that top line can definitely win a game or two for the Avs.
Kiz: The talent was always there. But, at age 22, MacKinnon finally matured into a man in full. And now he is the man, firmly established as a true superstar that can make these Avs much more than the NHL’s best feel-good story of the year (sorry, Vegas). During the final games of the regular season, opponents began focusing on MacKinnon and the Avs’ top line with playoff intensity. The talented blue line of the Predators will do the same, and the speedy MacKinnon is likely to find open ice hard to find.
Chambers: No question, Kiz. The games in Nashville will be very difficult for MacKinnon and Co. to create good looks at the net. Home-ice advantage is a big advantage when playing the Avalanche, because the home team has last change between whistles and can put its best defenders up against the MGM Line. The key for the visiting team like the Avs will be drawing enough penalties to get opportunities on the power play. The MGM Line is Colorado’s power play, along with the two Tysons — Jost in the middle and Barrie quarterbacking the PP at the point.
Kiz: Rinne crafted a .927 save percentage and 2.32 goals against average. If defense wins championships, then nobody except Boston and the Los Angeles Kings are real threats to stop Rinne and the Predators from lifting the Cup. I love MacKinnon. If he can rattle Rinne, then Colorado has a chance to put a scare into Nashville. But if the Avs win two games in the series, it will be a major accomplishment. In the playoffs, give me a top goalie over a top scorer every time.
Chambers: I suspect the Avs will win a game at home — Game 3 or 4 – and have a chance to take the series back to Denver for Game 6. But you’re right — to make it a five- or six-game series will require nothing but excellence from the MGM Line and stellar goaltending from Jonathan Bernier. We have to remember this team is a huge underdog. The Avs are playing with house money, so to speak. There will be no shame in losing this series, and without that pressure I believe they will play very well and perhaps get to a Game 6.