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Nashville Predators @ Arizona Coyotes Preview: Duel in the Desert

From the mountain to the valley, the Preds try to keep their foot on the gas as the road trip chugs along.

Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

For the first time ever, the Nashville Predators play the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena.

The Arizona Coyotes

After Radim Vrbata left on his Big Wheel to play with some creepy twins, it raised questions in the Valley about who would score the team's goals. Though Simon Gagne was brought in, he's never been a big scorer, and free agency produced bupkis. (Sound familiar?)

Well, last year's 20th ranked offense is currently 26th in the league, their defense isn't faring much better, and they are getting left behind in the standings. In a year when Nashville, Winnipeg and Calgary are surprising, Arizona fans are seeing their team lumped in with also rans like Dallas and Colorado. Even the front office isn't happy, with GM Don Maloney threatening to trade players right to their faces.

As far actual production on the ice, the Coyotes are being led by stud defenseman Keith Yandle, though underrated center Antoine Vermette is right behind him. Mikkel Boedker paces the team with nine goals.

The Preds also might get to see franchise net minder Devan Dubnyk. (By the way, has David Poile ever gotten that Blu Ray player, or whatever he wanted in return for him?) Dubnyk has actually been performing better than starter Mike Smith, who is having, shall we say, an off year. Smith's 5v5 save percentage of .897 is 23rd out of the 24 goalies that have played at least 750 minutes this year. And he only has four more years left on his contract, with no movement/trade clauses.

The Nashville Predators

On Tuesday, Hockey Reference added "quality starts," a stat developed by Rob Vollman. Braden mentioned these in his review of Vollman's book, but for those not familiar with the term, I'll let the source explain:

An idea blatantly lifted from baseball, Quality Starts were one of Hockey Prospectus' first contributions back in 2009 as a measure of whether a goaltender "gave his team a chance to win". In order to record a Quality Start, the starting goalie must stop at least a league average number of shots (typically 91.3% prior to 2009-10, and 91.7% since), or play at least as well as a replacement-level goalie (88.5%) while allowing two goals or fewer.

So basically, if a goaltender ends the night with a save percentage above league average, that's considered a quality start. If it's a low shooting game (20 shots or less) than the goaltender just has to end above 88.5% to have a QS. It's better than tracking goalie wins, which (like with pitchers in baseball) is a little flawed.

Why am I mentioning this? Well, just take a look who's leading the league in quality starts. Pekka Rinne has 19 on the year, four more than second-place Braden Holtby. That's 19 quality starts and not a single RBS (really bad start) to his name. You didn't need stats to tell you Rinne is giving his team a chance to win every night, but isn't it nice to be reassured?

Sights and Sounds

We're in for another semi-late one tonight, as this one gets underway at 8 p.m. CST on all your usual stations. I'm guessing this is the time of the year when Arizona is in Mountain time, rather than Pacific. Who the hell even knows anymore. Even the residents don't, since they never have to worry about changing their clocks.

Pre Game Tunes

Denver to Glendale. Perfect. Ain't no part of Earth high (or low) enough to keep the Preds from a win. You also get the bonus of being able to click through the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack. Now, bring me that guy's leg.

And you know what, what the hell. Have some location topical Judas Priest as well. \m/