Nashville Predators vs. Arizona Coyotes
Game 1: Sunday, August 2nd, 1:00 PM CDT (USA, FS-TN)
This series can go one of two ways. It will either be a low-scoring defensive stalemate, or we’ll see a refreshed Predators team dominate the Coyotes. It all depends on which Predators team shows up.
On paper, the Predators should be playing in the round-robin games and not the qualifier. Their season just didn’t live up to full preseason expectations, leaving them in a tough five-game series with a gritty Coyotes team.
Fans of defensive hockey games with excellent goaltending will be entertained by this matchup because that’s what this series expects to be like. Capitalizing on power plays and avoiding bad turnovers that create easy offensive chances for the other team will be key.
A lot is riding on the play of the Predators’ star forwards. Ryan Johansen, Matt Duchene, and Viktor Arvidsson struggled during the regular season. This time off should have helped them prepare mentally,
The Predators’ top defensive pairing of Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis is one of the best in the NHL but must match the Coyotes defensively. Goaltenders Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros may both get called on throughout this series. Goaltending could decide the ultimate winner.
The Arizona Coyotes live and die by their defense. They have two excellent goaltenders in Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta. The Coyotes also have a superb penalty kill if you are lucky enough to draw a penalty from them.
The Coyotes aren’t without offensive weapons. If Phil Kessel gets hot in this series, he can cause trouble. Taylor Hall hasn’t played as well as he could this season, but that could all change during this series. They could catch the Predators off guard.
This series will be exciting to watch just to see which teams show up. Both have had similar seasons and struggles. The Predators are the more talented team on paper, but that doesn’t always translate to more goals on the scoreboard.