After a poor showing at the exhibition game against the Vegas Golden Knights, the Arizona Coyotes needed to set the pace early in the first game of the series. They did that with one of the most dominating periods in recent memories and a 3-1 lead over the Nashville Predators.
Nobody expected this series to be a high-scoring affair, and neither team is known for their offense. And nobody was expecting the Coyotes to be leading the first period of the series 3-1.
The Coyotes got offense from their top players. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Christian Dvorak, Clayton Keller, and Michael Grabner all scored, with Taylor Hall, Derek Stepan, and Phil Kessel all getting assists. If the Coyotes are going to make it through the series they are going to need those players to generate consistent offense.
If this game proved anything it is that special teams are going to be key this season. The Coyotes scored short-handed and on the power play, while two of Nashville’s three goals came on the power play. The refs seem to be calling the games pretty tight, with the two teams having a combined eleven power play opportunities.
Arizona found a lot of success in this series playing physical to slow down the Coyotes. In a recent episode of our podcast On The Forecheck’s Shaun Smith said that slowing the Predators would be key to their success. The Coyotes kept it mostly clean but delivered hard hits to the Predators.
Things will be relatively the same in net this time around. It has been confirmed that Darcy Kuemper will start in net and it sounds like the Predators will stick with Juuse Saros. Despite the score, both goalies were solid, and both made some key saves to keep their teams in the game.
Players to watch
Arizona: Taylor Hall - Hall made his premise known in the first period with two assists and a big hit on Roman Josi. Hall has made it known he wants to compete for the Stanley Cup, and he is showing what he brings to a team in the playoffs.
Nashville: Filip Forsberg - Forsberg scored twice on the power play for the Predators. Forsberg has had a lot of success in the postseason with the Predators in the past.
Arizona: Nick Schmaltz (questionable, neck)
Nashville: Rocco Grimaldi (undisclosed)
Today’s game will be at 11:30 Arizona time and will air on Fox Sports Arizona Plus, Fox Sports Tennessee, and the NHL Network and on the radio at Fox Sports 910 AM.