clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Arizona Coyotes vs. Nashville Predators: No Spoilers

After losing 4-2 against the Carolina Hurricanes, the Predators need to beat another team with little on the line.

Nashville Predators v Arizona Coyotes Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Nashville Predators return to Bridgestone Arena tonight for the first contest in a three game home stand. Their opponent tonight, the Arizona Coyotes, are completing a three game road trip, coming into Nashville cold off a 3-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues.

While they have a couple of talented young players, the Coyotes are the last team in the much improved Pacific Division. Most pundits quickly considered them as being unable to compete for the playoffs this season, and they have been right. Mike Smith has continued his regression and is a shell of the goaltender that shut down the Predators in the 2012 playoffs.

After being on the road for most of the last three weeks, it would be nice for the Predators to pick up some wins at home. Hopefully that begins tonight.

Arizona Coyotes

For a team without a whole lot of depth as is, Mike Smith’s inability to keep the puck out of the net has kept the Coyotes a significantly lower in the standings than they could be. He is currently spotting a GAA of 2.93, placing him among one of the leakiest goaltenders in the league. The Coyotes are not getting their value from his $5.67 million salary cap hit and his play is helping drive the Coyotes to another draft lottery pick.

On defense, Oliver Ekman-Larsson stands head and shoulders over the other blueliners on the Coyotes. Despite being one of the top defensemen in the NHL, he fails to receive his deserved recognition due to playing on such a poor team. He’s having a down season with 34 points in 71 games after having 55 in 75 last season. However, his 34 points still put him second on the Coyotes in scoring, so his lack of scoring likely is due to the void of talent around him.

Building off of that last point, the Coyotes only have four players over 30 points on the season. Their offense is atrocious. With 172 goals, they have scored the third fewest goals in the league. Their leading scorer is 35-year-old Radim Vrbata with 51 points. The only silver linings for this bad offense are young talents Tobias Rieder and Max Domi. The two young guns have the potential to be great players, but it may still be a few years until they begin to reach those heights.

Nashville Predators

There’s no doubt that this team can compete with the top teams in the league. Before the 4-2 loss at Carolina where the Predators dug themselves in a hole early on, the Predators had gone 3-2-2. In the four losses, the Predators trailed in total less than two minutes combined between the games. There is little reason to believe that the Predators can compete with the best of the best; they just have to make sure they play a full 60 minutes instead of 59.

The two areas in which the Predators could still improve is in their goals conceded and in player selection. Although they only conceded one goal to the Capitals, the Predators have looked leaky in their own end of the ice. While some have accused Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros as the culprits, the defense has not done their job picking up moving bodies in the slot. There have been numerous times where the defense just loses sight of someone right in front of Rinne or Saros and, more often than not, it’s that player who is putting the puck in the net.

As for player selection, there are still significant questions surrounding Cody McLeod’s inclusion in the lineup over players like Miika Salomaki and even more questions about the occasional scratching of Kevin Fiala. McLeod’s underlying possession numbers do not support his inclusion in the lineup. Even using the eye test, it feels like the Predators are always in their own zone when he is on the ice. Salomaki, who had been out with a long term injury, is back and healthy, yet he is watching games from the press box. Salomaki, dubbed “the Finnish wrecking ball”, brings that same energy as McLeod, but can do much more than just fight. Aside from fighting and providing a veteran presence, Salomaki does everything that McLeod does better.

Finally, Kevin Fiala has been stellar since his last call-up, but for some reason Laviolette has scratched him on multiple occasions. He has been all over the ice, generating a lot of dangerous chances with Mike Fisher centering him on the second line. Here’s hoping Fiala is on the ice again tonight.

Reasons to Watch

  • I feel like every game preview I have the JOFA line as a reason to watch. Until they prove me otherwise (please don’t), they stay.
  • It’s always fun to see old legends play the game. Shane Doan qualifies as such a person.
  • Max Domi is pretty good at hockey, go check him out. Plus, unlike his dad, if you go to the game, you won’t have to worry about him jumping the glass to fight you.
  • Viktor Arvidsson continues his quest to thirty goals. Can he get closer tonight?

Gameday Hockey Lingo Word of the Day

Sieve, noun.

Definition: A goalie that’s easy to score on. Many college hockey student sections, especially that of the Wisconsin Badgers, chant it in unison at opposing goalies after a goal.

Example:

Sights and Sounds

The puck drops at 7:00 PM CST downtown at Bridgestone Arena. If you cannot attend the game, the Predators will be televised on FS-TN. Alternatively, you can catch them on the radio at 102.5 The Game.