We knew it wasn’t going to be that easy. After the Arizona Coyotes started their series with the Nashville Predators 3-1, only to go on to win the game 4-3, we knew that this wasn’t going to be an easy series. So yesterday’s 4-2 shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise.
Unfortunately, yesterday’s loss featured many of the issues the Coyotes struggled with throughout the season. Their offense was inconsistent, they had trouble making it to three goals, the team was relying too much on goaltending, and a lot of little things that make the difference in hockey games.
Nashville struck first blood with goals from Nick Bonino and Ryan Johansen in the first period. A 2-0 lead isn’t insurmountable, but Nashville extended it to 3-0 in the second with a goal from Calle Jarnkrok and finally 4-0 midway through the third with a goal from Viktor Arvidsson.
Perhaps the best thing you can say about the Coyotes effort yesterday was that they didn’t give up. During the last minute of play, Clayton Keller and Lawson Crouse scored, cutting the Predator’s lead in half. Definitely not enough to make a difference this game, but hopefully enough momentum to build off of today.
Given the way the series has played out so far, it appears that the first goal is going to be key moving forward. Neither team is an offensive juggernaut, but more than that scoring first has allowed teams to dictate play. When the Coyotes scored first on a weird hope they pretty much controlled the rest of the period, when Nashville had a 2-0 lead after one they controlled most of the game.
The Coyotes plans have gotten more complicated since the previous game. It appeared likely that head coach Rick Tocchet would split the starts for the back-to-back between Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta, only for Raanta to leave the bench early after taking a puck to the head during warmups.
Not sure if this is related to Raanta's departure. Not sure why he would have stayed out after this if something were wrong. https://t.co/IAozs187L4— Craig Morgan (@CraigSMorgan) August 4, 2020
This year’s playoffs are different for so many reasons, but the short time frame may be one of the biggest. With back-to-backs the ability to readjust is going to be key, Nashville did it between game one and game two, the Coyotes are going to do it today if they want to take game three and retake the series lead.
Players to watch
Arizona: Clayton Keller - After a weak season and signing a long-term deal Keller gets a lot of criticism. Some of that criticism is earned, but the Coyotes do rely on Keller for offense. Keller had a very good training camp, and he is the only player to score in both games of the series.
Nashville: Ryan Johansen - Johansen made his presence known yesterday with a goal and a primary assist on Viktor Arvidsson’s power play goal. He has three points on the series so far and he has a history of generating offense during the Predators runs in 2016-17 and 2017-18.
Arizona: Nick Schmaltz (neck), Antti Raanta (head)
Today’s game will begin at 11:30 and will air on Fox Sports Arizona Plus, Fox Sports Tennessee, the NHL Network, and on the radio at Fox Sports 910 AM.