The Stanley Cup Playoffs are set and the Nashville Predators will be taking on the Colorado Avalanche in the first round. The series begins on Thursday night in one of the most intimidating playoff environments a team can walk into, Bridgestone Arena.

The Preds are in a much different situation than they were in 2017, when they came in as the eight seed in the Western Conference, swept the Chicago Blackhawks, and ended up advancing to the Stanley Cup Final. This year Nashville comes in as the top seed and President’s Cup winner, and with a target on their backs have gone from the hunter to the hunted.

The team that is in the same position as the Preds were last year will be the first team they must play in the 2018 playoffs, the Colorado Avalanche. The Avalanche went 43-30 in the regular season and finished fifth in the Central, and will be led in the playoffs by center Nathan MacKinnon, the team points leader by a solid margin.

This will be a very physical series as Colorado is a team that likes to play a defensive game and take advantage of defensive mistakes by their opponent. In a game just a week ago against San Jose they put up just 25 shots, and scored twice. In a game against the Blues two days later they put up 39 shots and scored 5 times, but two of those were on an empty net. Regardless, goalie play and defense will be a large part of this series.

Thankfully for Nashville they have a very good defense that doesn’t allow a lot of points, and two goalies that could shut out anyone on any given night. Between the two of them, Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros have saved 92.6% of the shots that have come at them all year, and that’s over 2600 shots.

To add on to those numbers, the Preds defense passes the eye test with flying colors. Every defender on this team can stop just about anything that could be thrown at them, and when P.K. Subban and Roman Josi are on the ice at the same time, it’s highly unlikely that the other team has a chance at scoring.

Add to that defense an offense that can make the smallest defensive mistakes look like complete breakdowns, and Nashville has a distinct advantage in this series. Given that anything can happen in sports, it’s hard to predict a sweep, especially when that sweep would be the second in two years in the opening round of the playoffs for Nashville.

Prediction: Nashville wins in five games.