A disappointing week of hockey is behind the Nashville Predators, but they have a brand new set of games to start a new winning streak.
Losses against Philadelphia and Buffalo were frustrating to say the least. The Coyotes, Panthers, and Red Wings are all teams that may not be the most intimidating, but all have a competitive streak going. It won't be an easy few games.
Tonight's opponent is one that has been surprising all season. Arizona should have been a lottery team. Conventional wisdom (and knowledge of underlying numbers) say they are performing well above where they should be. Their division is weak though, so how long they can stay in contention may rely more on what their competition does than what they can do.
Either the Yotes don't know that Auston Matthews is from Scottsdale, or they don't care.
It's a draft storyline that hasn't been as perfect since Seth Jones was supposed to be taken first overall by the Colorado Avalanche. Arizona stood no chance of being anything but a lottery team in 2015-16, and they were going to take homegrown talent Matthews with the first pick at the draft in Buffalo.
Instead, the Coyotes have made it to the quarter point of the season with a 13-9-1 record, good 3rd in the Pacific division. Their 27 points are only 1 behind the Preds, if that tells you anything. They are outperforming Vancouver, Anaheim and Calgary, and come to Bridgestone Arena riding a three-game winning streak.
But, as mentioned above, nothing about this team screams anything other than mediocre. They score a slightly above-average amount of goals per game (2.83, 11th) but allow the exact same rate, which is 23rd in the league. Their power play is dismal (28th), their PK a little better than OK (12th), and they sit 18th in score-adjusted-corsi-for. Could they challenge for a playoff spot this year? Probably not. But, then again, no one predicted the Ducks so suck so bad to start the season, so who really knows?
Right now, the desert dogs are being led by rookie sensation Max Domi, who is entering the game with 20 points. His counterpart acquired from the Rangers, Anthony Duclaire, is also making his presence known with 14 points. In all, the Coyotes have seven skaters who have cracked double digits in points, and their first line of Domi, Antoine Vermette and Mikkel Boedker are actually doing some damage.
All this is to say that Arizona might seem like a team where the points should come easy, but they've proven otherwise so far. Especially considering Nashville just went 1-1-1 against two teams that have performing worse than the Coyotes.
Speaking of possession, you know where the Predators stand? Second. In the entire NHL, only one team has better score-adjusted shot attempt metrics better than Nashville.
That may not seem like a big deal to people who don't pay attention to underlying number, but it's huge. Over the last several years, people smarter than you or I have documented and proven what a successful Stanley Cup winning team looks like through possession metrics. Hockey is one of the few sports we can see these number and say, "this is a playoff team" or, "this team will crash and burn." See Avalanche, Colorado.
The Predators are a flawed team. A majorly flawed team, actually. They will probably make the playoffs, but they aren't going to win the Stanley Cup... at least not as presently constructed. However, that should give you warm feelings inside to think about what is going on right now. A team with two 35-year-old centers, with mediocre goaltending and slumping forwards, shooting a barely league average of 7.2%, is pacing nearly the entire NHL in SACF% and scoring chances for. The highest predictors of future success. If they can play like that now, think of what they could do with and actual elite center? The proverbial straw that stirs the drink. It's almost impossible to say that one player will fix all the team's woes, but that mystery 1C looks more tantalizing day after day.
By the way, you know who is the only team ahead of the Predators in those metrics? The two-time Cup champions the Los Angels Kings.
Reasons to Watch
- The first and second line have actually been performing well over the last couple of games. Smart money is on that to continue as they play more, assuming they stick together.
- Do you have a moment to talk about Colton Sissons?
- There's roughly a one in eight chance we'll see a #Buttgoal.
- Seriously, what are your thoughts on the new Yotes jerseys?