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Nashville Predators @ Arizona Coyotes Preview: Salvaging Pride

The Predators try to pull out a split in their two game road trip as they travel to Arizona for a Saturday night clash with the Coyotes.

NHL: Nashville Predators at Arizona Coyotes Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Predators will pick up the remnants of their trampled pride from Thursday night and head into Arizona to take on the Coyotes tonight.

Though the final score was 5-2, that was a veritable beat down. The Predators had absolutely no answer for the Stars’ offensive attack, leaving Pekka Rinne out to dry on numerous occasions. He gave up 4 goals for only the second time in over a month (the last time being last Saturday night against New Jersey) but the defense gave him no chance on some of those saves.

The good thing is that the NHL season is 82 games long and the Preds can immediately forget about Thursday night. Tonight they take on the worst team in the league.

The Arizona Coyotes

The Coyotes are 8-13-5, have only 21 points through 26 games, and are pretty bad. The Predators have beaten the Avalanche a few times this season and the Avalanche are arguably a better team than the Coyotes, though they have the same number of points.

Arizona has the 2nd worst offense (scoring 2.15 goals per game) and the 2nd worst defense (allowing 3.12 goals per game) in the league. That combination is pretty terrible. There isn’t much they have going for them, really. Max Domi is a fun player to watch, he leads the team with 11 assists. They also have Oliver Ekman-Larsson, an excellent young defenseman, who has 13 points on the season. Radim Vrbata is arguably the best free agent steal this summer and leads the team with eight goals. But that’s about it.

Take a look at the team 5v5 shots for and against throughout the league, courtesy of HockeyViz:

There is Arizona, pushing themselves as close to the “bad” sector as they can get. Allowing a ton of shot attempts and not generating very many at the other end.

Hey, look! Nashville is not doing too bad! Maybe it’s not time to call it quits!

In goal, Mike Smith is “outdueling” Louis Domingue for the time being, though that wasn’t the case earlier in the year. In his last seven starts, Smith has stopped 256 of 273 shots faced, for a .938 save percentage. His play helped guide Arizona to back-to-back wins over Edmonton back in late November, probably their best two wins of the year. They followed that up with five straight losses over San Jose, Los Angeles, Columbus, Chicago, and Calgary.

Like I said earlier... Arizona is pretty bad. But they did beat the Preds 3-2 in a shootout earlier in the year. So, naturally, they probably win tonight.

The Nashville Predators

Thursday was pretty rough to watch. At least three of the goals (Ritchie, Spezza, and Roussel) were mostly because the defense played poorly around Pekka. It’s beginning to become a troublesome trend.

The Predators have allowed 23 goals in their last six games, for an average of almost four goals per game. The team allowed 23 goals total in the 12 games before that during the red hot month of November, a little less than two goals per game. Doubling the amount of goals allowed in any stretch of games is never a good strategy. The blame can’t all be placed on the shoulders of Pekka Rinne. The team needs to play more sound defense in front of him.

At the other end, Filip Forsberg still only has two goals. He is now shooting 3.3% for the season. Austin Watson (4.5%), Roman Josi (5.2%) and Matt Irwin (11.5%) are all shooting better than Forsberg. This is not a trend that will continue. Forsberg’s shooting will improve—it has to. He’s not a sub 4.0% shooting kind of player. He’s not even a sub 8.0% shooting kind of player. He is a top tier scorer at his position and will eventually get it done.

Meanwhile, everyone’s favorite target Mike Ribeiro leads the team in points with 18. When he isn’t chirping with other players and referees, Ribeiro is getting things done with the puck. While never a threat to score himself, he is continually putting other players in position to score with adept passing and vision. I guess we just have to be ok with that.

Reasons to Watch

There’s really only one...

Pregame Entertainment

Anytime the Preds lose, I sit there with a black hole in my chest, a heartless, broken mess.

The Important Details

Puck drop is at 7:00 PM Central. TV: FS-TN, Radio: 102.5 The Game