Coyotes vs Predators - NHL Qualifying Round Preview & Prediction
The NHL has decided to scrap the rest of the regular season and that means we will head right to the playoffs when the season restarts in late July. As we continue to inch closer to the restart of the NHL season, I will continue to preview the Qualifying Round of the playoffs.
Here are other the previews I have done so far:
The NHL playoffs will have 24 teams in it with the 16 of those teams playing in eight best-of-five Qualifying round matchups. The Top four teams in each conference will then square off against each other in a round-robin style format to determine the seeding of those four teams. The four teams from the West that win their Qualifying Matchup will face the top four teams in that conference and the same for the East. The Western Conference playoffs will take play in one hub city and the Eastern Conference will do the same. The hub cities have not yet been announced.
Today I will be taking a look at the matchup between the Arizona Coyotes (33-37) and the Nashville Predators (35-34). The Preds come in at -135 to win the series while the Coyotes are at +115.
A Look At The Coyotes
Regular Season Stats & Rankings: The Coyotes are 23rd in scoring at 2.71 gpg, 14th in shots per game at 31.7, and 18th in powerplay conversions at 19.2%. On the defensive end of the ice, they finished at 3rd in goals allowed at 2.61 gpg, 23rd in shots allowed at 32.4 spg, and 5th in penalty kill at 82.7%.
The Arizona Coyotes were looking pretty good for much of the year but they did not play all that well down the stretch. Still, Arizona will be in the playoffs, thanks to the expanded format. Arizona is four games under .500 for the year, but they have gone nine games under .500 over their last 25 games. The mark over that stretch is just 8-17. The offense has been their issue this year as they just don’t have a tone of scoring options. They did add Taylor Hall from New Jersey during the season and he has 10 goals in 35 games for the Coyotes so far. Leading the team in goals has been Conor Garland, who has 22 while Christian Dvorak is 2nd with 18. Leading the team in points has been Nick Schmaltz with 45 while Clayton Keller is 2nd with 44. There is just not a lot of punch to this offense and we do note that they averaged just 2.48 gpg over their last 25 games, which includes averaging just 1.71 gpg in the 17 losses over that stretch. Arizona needs its offense to show up or this could be a very short series.
At the other end of the ice is where the coyotes have excelled this year as they come in at 3rd in the league in goals allowed per game and that is despite the fact that they are 23rd in shots allowed. The Coyotes have gotten great play in the crease so far with Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta. Let’s start with Kuemper, who has played in 29 games this year and has gone 16-13 with a 2.22 GAA on the year, including 10-5 with a 2.10 GAA on the road. He had a .928 save percentage on the year. In his career, he has gone 5-3 with a 2.39 GAA against the Predators and Darcy has gone 3-1 with a 2.13 GAA in nine playoff games. Antti Raanta went just 15-17 on the year but with a solid 2.63 GAA in 33 games played, including 5-11 with a 3.19 GAA away from home. In his career, he has gone 2-4 with a 2.77 GAA against Nashville and he is 0-1 with a 2.56 GAA in three games in the postseason. If the offense doesn’t show up, then the onus will be on these two goalies to lead the team to the next round.
A Look At The Predators
Regular Season Stats & Rankings: The Predators are 16th in scoring at 3.07 gpg, 5th in shots per game at 33.1, and 25th in powerplay conversions at 17.3%. On the defensive end of the ice, they finished at 20th in goals allowed at 3.10 gpg, 16th in shots allowed at 31.3 spg, and 29th in penalty kill at 76.1%.
A lot more was expected of the Nashville Predators than a 5th place finish in the Central Division but we note that they did play a bit better down the stretch. Nashville won their final three games before the pause and they went a solid 13-8 over their final 21 games. They were building some momentum and Nashville now has to hope that the pause didn’t curb it too much. The offense hasn’t been as good as the last couple of years and while they did play well down the stretch, Nashville did average just 2.62 gpg over their final 21 games. With those kinds of offensive numbers and with the way that Arizona has struggled to score, we could be looking at a very low scoring series. Leading the team in points has been Roman Josi with 65 while Filip Forsberg had 48 and Matt Duchene had 42. Forsberg led the team in goals with 21 while Nick Bonino and Chris Smith each had had 18. Can the Preds crack that tough Arizona goaltending in this series? We shall see.
As I showed above, the predators struggled to score down the stretch, despite going 13-8 in their final 21 games. The goaltending has been below average this year overall but it has been their play in the crease that carried them down the stretch. In their final 19 games, the Preds allowed just 2.57 gpg, while posting two shut outs in their final three games. The time in the crease has been pretty much evenly split between Juuse Saros and Pekka Rinne. Saros went 17-16 with a 2.70 GAA in 40 games, including 10-9 with a 2.92 GAA on the road. In his career, he has gone 0-1 with a 4.03 GAA against the Coyotes. Saros has played in seven playoff games and is 0-0 with a 1.67 GAA in those games. Rinne has gone 18-18 with a 3.17 GAA in 36 games this year, including 8-7 with a 2.99 GAA away from home. In his career, he has gone 20-11 with a 2.05 GAA against the Coyotes and he is 45-44 with a 2.49 GAA in the postseason. Saros has the better numbers this year but Rinne has plenty of playoff experience so I would look for both goalies to get time in this series.
Prediction: This will be a case where I feel the break will help the Coyotes while the pause will disrupt the momentum that the Prwds had. That’s right, I will be going with the Coyotes in this series. They are a young team that is also very talented and I feel that they have a huge edge in the crease in this series. Yes, Pekka Rinne has plenty of playoff experience, but he has been off all year and Juuse saros does not have a lot of postseason experience. The Preds have the edge on offense, but it is not a huge edge while Arizona has a big edge in special teams, especially on the penalty kill where they are 5th while the 29th in that category. There will be no home-ice advantage in this one and that should help the dog here. This should be an exciting low-scoring series that the Coyotes will take in five games.