With the Qualifying Round taking place to determine who will advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and who gets a shot at the first overall pick in the NHL Draft, we take a look at the upcoming best of five game series between the Arizona Coyotes and the Nashville Predators.
Leading the charge in Arizona will be Taylor Hall who has become the top scorer after being acquired from New Jersey back in December. Hall has 10 goals and 17 assists for 27 points in 35 games with the Coyotes. Goaltender Darcy Kuemper was having a stellar start to his season until a lower body injury put him on the shelf for two months back in December. Kuemper will be looking to regain the number one spot from fellow netminder Antti Raanta during training camp.
Phil Kessel will be the player to watch for the Coyotes as he looks to turn his game around after recording 14 goals and 24 assists for 38 points in 70 games played during his first season in Arizona after being traded during the offseason from Pittsburgh. Kessel has scored 33 goals and 44 assists for 77 points in 87 career NHL playoff games, including winning the 2016 and 2017 Stanley Cups with Pittsburgh, Kessel knows what it takes to win, but will he get it turned around to help the Coyotes get past Nashville and advance deep in the playoffs?
In Nashville the Predators will be looking to captain Roman Josi and goaltender Juuse Saros to to continue where they left off back in March and continue to bolster the play of the Predators. Josi scored 16 goals and 49 assists for 65 points to lead the team in scoring, while Saros took over from Pekka Rinne as the number one goalie after Rinne struggled this season with a 17-12-4 record with a 2.70 GAA and a .914 Save Percentage.
After signing a seven year contract with the Predators, all eyes will be on Matt Duchene. Duchene ranked ninth on the team with 13 goals scored, but he was able to record 42 points (one of three to hit 40 points). Duchene is going to be looked to to pick up his game and help revive the Predators powerplay if they look to top Arizona.
The Difference Maker
Special Teams will be the biggest difference maker. During the 2019-20 season the Coyotes were ranked 18th on the powerplay (19.2%) while the Predators were 25th (17.3%). However, on the penalty kill there is a much bigger story. On the penalty kill the Coyotes ranked 5th in the NHL going 82.7 percent while the Predators are 29th at 76.1 percent. If this were to stay the same in the Qualifying Round, then Arizona has a very distinct edge over Nashville.
Taylor Hall — Christian Dvorak — Clayton Keller
Lawson Crouse — Derek Stepan — Nick Schmaltz
Conor Garland — Barrett Hayton — Phil Kessel
Carl Soderberg — Brad Richardson — Vinnie Hinostroza
Oliver Ekman-Larsson — Ilya Lyubushkin
Jakob Chychrun — Niklas Hjalmarsson
Alex Goligoski — Jason Demers
Filip Forsberg — Matt Duchene — Mikael Granlund
Colton Sissons — Ryan Johansen — Calle Jarnkrok
Yakov Trenin — Kyle Turris — Viktor Arvidsson
Rocco Grimaldi — Nick Bonino — Craig Smith
Roman Josi — Ryan Ellis
Mattias Ekholm — Dante Fabbro
Jarred Tinordi — Korbinian Holzer