The Colorado Avalanche have a Filip Forsberg problem, and unless they can somehow make it go away in the next four to six games, their season will go away.
Forsberg scored two goals in the third period Thursday night to snap a tie and lift the Nashville Predators to their 11th straight win over Colorado, a 5-2 decision that gave them a 1-0 lead in a best-of-seven series in the Western Conference quarterfinal.
If the Avalanche are to win Game 2 on Saturday at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, they have to figure out a plan to neutralize Forsberg, who in 21 career games has lit them up for 15 goals and 11 assists.
Goal number 15, an unassisted effort at 12:10 of the third period Thursday evening which saw Forsberg totally undress former Nashville Predator and current Avalanche defenseman Samuel Girard by dangling the puck between his legs before flicking a wrister by Jonathan Bernier, was trending late Thursday night and Friday morning on social media.
“That was unbelievable,” Nashville forward Austin Watson said of Forsberg’s marker. “I don’t know if you guys panned over to the bench, but all of our jaws dropped. He thinks of doing things out there that wouldn’t even happen in my dreams.”
As Forsberg continues to gain experience and combine it with his abundant skills, he’s becoming the Predators’ figurative ‘X button.’ Press it, and you gain separation from any opponent, even one like Colorado that was every bit Nashville’s equal for about 2 1/2 periods Thursday night.
The Avalanche’s speed and aggression made them a worthy foe. They led for most of the first 30 minutes and were never truly out of it until a power play after Forsberg’s second goal failed. But at the same time, what Forsberg did is a reminder of why the Predators are the top seed and why Colorado is a heavy underdog.
“It shows us we’re right there with them,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “I think the first two periods we outplayed them for big parts of it. We’ve got a big one here on Saturday. We’re going to try to steal that one and get them back to the Pepsi Center where we’re really good.”
In order to return to Denver with a split, Colorado will have to improve on special teams. It failed on three power-play chances, including a brief 5-on-3 late in the first period, as Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne came up with multiple clutch stops.
The Predators also needed just 10 seconds to score on their first man advantage after Craig Smith erased the Avalanche’s last lead at 8:50 of the second period. It’s those types of quick turnarounds that marked Nashville’s run to the Stanley Cup Final last spring.
Most importantly, Colorado has to keep Forsberg from finding open space and getting on the scoresheet. As recent history shows, that’s a lot easier said than done, especially on his second tally.
“I always feel like he’s at his best when he’s a power forward first,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said of Forsberg. “Then he brings his skill element into it, and that’s exactly what he did on that goal.”