Nashville Predators vs. Arizona Coyotes - NHL Playoff Series Pick, Odds, and Prediction
Photo by Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Arizona Coyotes vs. Nashville Predators
The Line: Nashville Predators -125 / Arizona Coyotes +105
The Nashville Predators and the Arizona Coyotes will square off in a qualifying round best-of-5 series in the NHL once play resumes, let’s take a look at the two sides heading into the series.
The Nashville Predators finished the regular season 6th in the Western Conference based on the standings at the end of the year with a record of 35-26-8 and a points percentage of .565. This appearance marks Nashville’s 6th straight postseason appearance but first since 2016-17 without a division title. Roman Josi finished the regular season as Nashville’s top point-getter, leading the Predators with 65 points including a team-high 49 assists while Filip Forsberg has a team-high 21 goals with 27 assists for his 48 points in the regular season. Nashville had one of the most split goaltending loads heading into the hiatus, with Pekka Rinne logging 35 starts with an 18-14-4 record with a 3.17 GAA and an .895 save percentage, but Juuse Saros had the better numbers as the “backup” with a 17-12-4 record with a 2.70 GAA and a .914 save percentage with 4 shutouts this season.
The Arizona Coyotes were given a lifeline into the playoffs as they were sitting in 11th in the Western Conference standings, sitting four points out of a wild card spot when the league was paused after leading the Pacific division at one point in the middle of the season. The playoff berth marks Arizona’s first playoff appearance in eight seasons since making it all the way to the conference finals in 2011-12. There was a lot more balance across Arizona’s lineup in terms of the scoring output, with Nick Schmaltz leading Arizona with 45 points including a team-high 34 assists this season while Clayton Keller was right behind in the 2nd with 44 points with 17 goals and Conor Garland had a team-high 22 goals in 68 games in the regular season. The break will have given the Coyotes the opportunity to get healthy in the crease, as the 3rd string goaltender Adin Hill had to be turned to nine times and Antti Raanta had to start 32 games after heading into the season as Arizona’s backup to Darcy Kuemper. Kuemper had a record of 16-11-2 with a 2.22 GAA and .928 save percentage despite dealing with the injury bug for most of the year, while Raanta posted a 15-14-3 mark with a 2.63 GAA and a 2.22 save percentage.
The two sides split the two regular season meetings between the two sides, with the home team winning both times with Arizona posting a 5-2 win over Nashville on October 17th and the Predators returned the favor with a 3-2 win just before the Christmas break.
I think of the 8 qualifying round series, this one has the chance to see the under hit in every game as these two teams just feels like they’re going to play a grind-it-out, work for every goal style of hockey. With that said, a lot of the Coyotes’ issues came from having goaltending issues with injuries and a two-month layoff will help cure what ails you, and that includes getting Darcy Kuemper back and Kuemper was a major part of Arizona’s success early on this season. Nashville has goaltending depth and that had me leaning their way early, but seeing the split in goaltending work by choice leads me to think there are inconsistencies that could rear their ugly head once the series starts. I think the Coyotes’ defense could be the difference if it shows up the same way it did in the regular season, so I’ll side with Arizona to win the series in 4 games.