The hangover is wearing off slowly and it's already time to start thinking about the next round (I know this is new for us, but apparently as the Phoenix Coyotes keep advancing, we get to look at new organizations and see how the Coyotes may stack up over a 7 game series...crazy talk). The Nashville Predators are a kinda pseudo-Coyotes - non-traditional market, good goaltending, depth on the blue line, nothing too flashy up front, excellent coaching. As we did with Chicago, we'll break it down section by section over the next few days while we prep for game 1 (whenever the NHL tells us that is actually happening).
Some basic numbers:
|Power Play Percent||21.6||13.5|
|Power Play Rank||1||29|
|Penalty Kill Percent||83.6||85.5|
|Penalty Kill Rank||10
|H2H Power Play Conversion
||1 for 11
||0 for 7
Game 1: October 13, 2011 @ Nashville: 5-2 Coyotes Win
This was the first Coyotes victory of the season coming after the disappointing opener in San Jose and the heart breaking first last minute goal to Dallas in the second game. Jason LaBarbera was your starting goalie, and the Coyotes flat steam-rolled the Predators in the first period, scoring three goals withDavid Schlemko, Ray Whitney and Lauri Korpikoski finding the net. Mikkel Boedker scored in the second and the Coyotes held on from there with Shane Doan adding an empty netter.
Game 2: November 3, 2011 @ Phoenix, 3-0 Predators Win
This was the Pekka Rinne show, as the 23 year old netminder capped off the day when he signed a 7-year, $49 million dollar contract by turning aside 35 shots for the shut out victory. The Coyotes were playing their second game of a back-to-back, traveling in from Colorado the night before and just could not solve Rinne on this night. Barbs was again in net for the Coyotes for this game and was solid, even in the losing effort. The two goals in the second period were on a shot through a screen and a perfectly executed 2-on-1. The Preds added an empty netter for insult at the end of the game.
Game 3: December 6, 2011 @ Nashville, 3-2 Coyotes Win
Coyotes completed their season sweep in Nashville behind another solid Jason LaBarbera performance in net, as he made 30 saves en route to the victory. Taylor Pyatt opened the scoring in this game just 9 seconds after play began, but Nashville responded to tie the game with 10 seconds remaining in the first. The teams exchanged goals in the third before Keith Yandle scored the game winner with just under 2 minutes remaining in regulation during 4-on-4 play.
Game 4: March 12, 2012 @ Phoenix, 5-4 Predators Win (SO)
Mike Smith's only appearance in the season series came during that awkward stretch of games in early March where the Coyotes were simply not playing good hockey. The teams basically exchanged goals through the first 40 minutes (even though the play favored Nashville) before Nashville opened a two goal advantage early in the third period. The Coyotes would get late goals from Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Raffi Torres to tie the game before Nashville won in a shoot-out with Andrei Kostitsyn supplying the lone goal.
What We Can Learn
To be honest, not too much. With three of the games occurring before the calendar turned over and Mike Smith being the starter for Phoenix in only one of the games, there's not a lot of predictive value to be drawn from these games. Phoenix is clearly playing better than they did at the time, and I'd venture that Nashville is doing the same. Both teams dominated one of the games and the other two were close fought affairs. I'd venture a guess that we'll see a lot more close games than dominated efforts during this Western Conference Semifinal.
For the Nashville perspective, check out our friends at On The Forecheck.