Cats the Play-in Series! Predators vs Coyotes.
Ignoring this article's terrible title, this series is a showdown of two underachieving teams. Nashville in a normal non-COVID season would still make the playoffs as the 6 seed but has not looked like the cup contender everyone thought they were. The Coyotes, on the other hand, were so underwhelming this year that their General Manager quit....not fired, he actually terminated his own contract with three years remaining.
Nashville Predators (6) vs Arizona Coyotes (11)
After adding an explosive talent like Matt Duchene in free agency to a roster already loaded with veteran talent, the Predators should be a cup favorite. But regression in Pekka Rinne's play and next to no scoring from anyone not named Roman Josi, not many people have Nashville going past the first round of the playoffs. Let's hope the four months of rest have their veterans coming back refreshed and ready to go.
The Coyotes, on the other hand, are a team in transition...a long transition. After just missing out on the playoffs last year and adding Phil Kessel in the offseason many thought this young Cotoyes team would make the jump to playoff contenders. That did not happen, the third-lowest scoring team to make the 24 team playoffs has many young players trending towards the bust label. The one hope is that their stingy defense and Taylor Hall's scoring can carry them to wins in the playoffs.
The Difference Makers
Looking at a player from each team that will decide this series.
Assuming either Pekka Rinne finds his game or gets replaced by his young back up Juuse Saros in net, Roman Josi is will be the main reason the Predators win or lose this series. If not for a ridiculous reason by John Carlson, Josi would be a clear favorite for the Norris Trophy this year. This season he leads the team in both points and ice time as a defenseman. He will have to continue to carry the offense if the Preds are going to go far in the playoffs.
52 points and under a point per game it was an off-year for Taylor Hall, but much of the blame can be placed on playing for a terrible Devils team until he got traded to the Coyotes in December. An unrestricted free agent this offseason Hall has a lot to lose if he does not perform in the playoffs. Only his second time in the playoffs, he is also running out of time to build his legacy. So expect Hall to take advantage of this opportunity and lead the Coyotes offense.
Prediction and Betting Picks
The Preds come into this series as clear favorites.
The Coyotes are lead by a star player in Taylor Hall, the only problem is the predators are lead by a superstar in Roman Josi. Even with Taylor Hall and solid all-round team defense, I don't see the Coyotes being able to score enough to win this series. I see the Preds refreshed veteran talent just being too much for this Coyotes team that is still not the playoff contender we expected
Prediction: Preds win in 4.