With news that the Arizona Coyotes playoffs drought may soon end, every fan of the team has to be thrilled. Although it is not confirmed just yet, the National Hockey League’s Players’ Association has moved in the direction of a 24-team tournament to finally finish the 2019-20 season.
Arizona Coyotes Haven’t Played in the Postseason since 2012
In the end, it appears that the Coyotes would sneak into the playoffs after finishing 11th in the Western Conference standings. The proposed standings to determine which team plays each other will be decided by their winning percentage.
That means the Nashville Predators would be ranked sixth with a .565 winning percentage. The Arizona Coyotes had a .529 winning percentage when play was halted. So, they would face the Nashville club in a best-of-five play-in series. The winner would go on to face the third-seeded Vegas Golden Knights who ended with a .606 winning percentage. The second round and beyond will be the traditional best-of-seven game series.
The Arizona Coyotes making the playoffs under any circumstances is a big deal for the team and its fans. It’s been eight LONG years since there was a white-out in the valley. Unfortunately, if everything is approved to continue to play it will be without fans donning their white to games. TV will have to do. How do you have a white-out virtually? Not sure, but someone will come up with a creative solution.
While every hockey fan is clamouring for the game to begin again, there are still details to be worked out. The NHL is working out where the games will be played and how to be certain of the player’s and staff’s safety amid COVID-19. A possible start date could happen by the end of July.
How Would Play Resuming Affect the Taylor Hall Situation?
Much of the hope of signing Taylor Hall to a long-term contract was tied to whether the Coyotes could make the playoffs. He wants to be with a winner. Now, with the possibility of the team getting into postseason play, does that mean Hall may consider staying in the desert?
According to TSN, in a podcast done with head coach Rick Tocchet, Hall is considering staying in Arizona. This speculation is promising, yet the team needs to determine how that could happen financially when they have little salary-cap space. They would almost certainly be forced to make some roster moves.
There’s no doubt that Hall would make the Coyotes a better team. His performance in the proposed playoffs would tell a lot as to his worth of a new contract. So many things have gone unresolved with the pandemic. Getting Taylor Hall signed would move this franchise into a new level of respect and admiration.
Arizona Coyotes vs Nashville Predators Matchup
So, if play does resume what kind of five-game playoff series can we expect against the Predators? They had 78 points through 69 games, so their winning percentage was increased due to playing fewer games than most teams. They are led by their captain Roman Josi who had a terrific season showing 65 points. He is some defenceman. He also led the team in blocks with 108. Not only can he be a scoring leader, but he is also a great possession player as well. He had a Corsi For of 53.2 and a relative Corsi of 3.8. He will be a key player the Coyotes will need to focus their attention towards.
For the Coyotes, Taylor Hall had 16 goals and 36 assists in 65 games with both the New Jersey Devils and the Coyotes. His Arizona numbers showed 10 goals and 17 assists in 35 games. He will be a key player the Predators will want to hold off the scoreboard to be successful in the proposed playoffs.
Goaltending Will be Key
The Arizona club was just four points behind the Predators with 74 points in 70 games. The two teams split their season series of two games. They seem fairly comparable and the big thing will be goaltending. The Coyotes will have the edge here and we all know how vital goaltending can be in a short playoff series. Darcy Kuemper sported a 16-11-2 record with a .928 save percentage added to his 2.22 goals-against-average. Backup Antti Raanta, while inconsistent still had a 15-14-3 record and a .921 save percentage to go along with a 2.63 goals-against-average.
On the Nashville side, starter Pekka Rinne was not playing all that well. He had an 18-14-4 record and a .895 save percentage with a 3.17 goals-against-average. Even the low-scoring Coyotes should be able to score against Rinne. Backup Juuse Saros had better results with a 17-12-4 record. He added in a .914 save percentage and a 2.70 goals-against-average. He very well could start over Rinne, but you never know.
Special Teams Comparisons
The Coyotes seem to have the edge by quite a margin when it comes to special teams play. They had a 19.2 percent power-play success rate compared to Nashville’s 17.3. Then, on the penalty kill the Coyotes are the stronger team. They have had an 82.7 percent successful man-advantage kill rate compared to Nashville’s lowly 76.1 percent. So, another key will be can the Coyotes score on the power play enough to eliminate the Predators’ hopes of advancing?
IF the playoffs go off as has been indicated, the Arizona Coyotes may very well be so excited to be back in postseason play that they move to the next round. Another factor may be that them getting into the playoffs may very well save Rick Tocchet‘s job. There has been speculation that he could be replaced before his contract expires after next season without a postseason appearance and the roster upgrade he requested.
To conclude, this will be one competitive series, and don’t forget without fans in the stands how will that factor into the results? Nashville’s crowd is insane and as previously mentioned the Coyotes may have had all those white-out fans going crazy, but not now.
It’s a whole new world. Guess we better get used to it.