PREVIEW: Nashville Predators vs. Arizona Coyotes
Dylan Callaghan-Croley (@DylanCCNHL)
August 1, 2020
What They Did in the Regular Season
Arizona Coyotes: The Yotes finished fifth in the Pacific Division this year collecting a 33-29-8 record for 74 points under head coach Rick Tocchet.
Nashville Predators: The Predators were one of the teams that made a coaching change during the season but it didn’t change all that much for the Preds. They went 35-26-8 overall this season with 78 points. Prior to the coaching change they were 19-15-7 underPeter Laviolette and then 16-11-1 under John Hynes.
Offensive Analysis: EDGE - NASHVILLE PREDATORS
Neither one of these teams are strong offensive teams, the Predators have the better offense ranking 16th in the NHL at 3.07 goals per game this season compared to that of the 2.71 goals per game for the Arizona Coyotes. Both teams powerplays were also below average in the league this year, the Coyotes ranking 18th as they scored on 19.2% of their power plays while the Predators ranked 25th scoring on 17.3% of their own opportunities.
The Coyotes during the regular season lacked a top notch goal scorer as Connor Garland led all scorers with 23 goals. Their leading point getter was Nick SChmaltz who had 45 points followed closely by former first-round pick Clayton Keller who posted 17 goals and 27 assists in his third season. Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of their offense this season was the fact that Phil Kessel and Taylor Hall both failed to produce at the level that you would expect.
Kessel in 70 games managed just 38 points while former Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall scored 27 points in 35 games. Obviously 27 points in 35 games is still pretty good but you’d think the Coyotes were expecting just a bit more out of the former Oiler and Devil.
Nashville, on the other hand, were led offensively by Roman Josi with 65 points in 69 games with star forwards Filip Forsberg and Matt Duchene finishing second and third on the team. Forsberg and Duchene both have the ability to take over games and lead the team but ended up struggling quite a bit this season as did the entire team. While their point totals would be averaged out to about their career averages over a fully 82-game schedule both players saw a drop in their goal scoring production in the regular season.
Both teams overall have good scoring depth with Arizona totaling 13 players with 20+ points while Nashville had 12 players. That alone should create a fun series offensively between these two teams even if they lack a dominating presence. Obviously players like Taylor Hall and Matt Duchene have that ability to dominate the game but that remains to be foreseen.
Defensive Analysis: EDGE - ARIZONA COYOTES
The Coyotes would have the significant advantage here as they posted the league’s fourth lowest goals against average in the regular season, allowing just 2.61 goals per game. While they have Darcy Kuemper to thank for that quite a bit (16-11-2, .928 SV, 2.22 GAA), the Arizona blue line deserves plenty of credit as well.
The Coyotes have a mixture of young talent and seasoned veterans that really meshed well together this year and were really their overall key to success. Oliver Ekman-Larsson remains one of the league’s top defenseman overall and has been the centerpiece of the Coyotes franchise for quite some time now. That being said, 21-year Jakob Chychrun was excellent this season and so was Alex Goligoski, a former Stanley Cup Champion with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Nashville in the regular season surrendered 3.10 goals per game while struggling on the penalty kill, killing just 76.1% of opponents power plays. For the Predators, their blue line struggles really came down to their depth at the position. Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis remain two of the league’s top defenseman. However, beyond that the Predators blue line struggled especially their third parking of Dan Hamhuis and Korbinian Holzer.
In goal for the Predators is still to be determined as they choose between Pekka Rinne and Juuse saros. Rinne didn’t have his best season, going 18-14-4 with a .895 save percentage and a 3.17 goals against average. The 24-year old Saros, however, showed a ton of promise going 17-12-4 with a .914 save percentage and a 2.70 goals against average. He also posted four shutouts on the season.
Special Teams: EDGE - ARIZONA COYOTES
The Coyotes get the special teams edge here as they hold a slightly better power play than the Predators (19.2% compared to 17.3%) but more importantly hold a top-five penalty kill from the regular season at 82.7%. The Predators, have one of the league’s worst at 76.1%.
Another series that I believe may be destined for five games. I think this series has the opportunity to be incredibly low scoring or surprisingly high scoring. Right now, I feel that Arizona is the better team heading into the series and I believe is ultimately the team that will move on. I believe their stronger defensive team and their (should be) strong special teams play will give them the edge in the series.