Juuse Saros

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Richardson’s OT goal gives Coyotes series win over Predators

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Brad Richardson‘s goal 5:27 into overtime gave the Coyotes a 4-3 win Friday, sending Nashville out of the Stanley Cup Qualifying Round in four games.

The series win is Arizona’s first since 2012 when they beat the Predators in five games to advance in the Second Round.

As they’ve done in the series, the Predators dug holes that led to opportunities for Arizona. Continued mistakes in the defensive zone not only hindered their ability to create scoring chances (won by the Coyotes 27-26 at 5-on-5), but led to goals against.

On Arizona’s first goal, Craig Smith‘s pass to Kyle Turris in order to exit their zone led to a turnover that ended up on Michael Grabner‘s stick. The forward then wristed a shot over Juuse Saros‘ glove for his second goal of the series.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Phil Kessel slapped home Arizona’s second tally thanks to a poor pass from Saros to Roman Josi.

The Predators didn’t go down without a fight. Matt Duchene and Viktor Arvidsson tied the game in the second with goals four minutes apart. Jordan Oesterle looked to have put the Coyotes ahead for good, but a fantastic combination between Ryan Ellis and Filip Forsberg forced overtime with 31.9 seconds left.

Extra hockey didn’t last long with Richardson’s putting home his own rebound on the doorstep.

Darcy Kuemper (.954 even strength save percentage in the series) was once again solid in net for the Coyotes. He made 49 saves in Game 4, the third time in the series he’s had to stop 40-plus shots.

Arizona will face either the Avalanche or Golden Knights in the First Round, which will begin next week.

(6) Nashville Predators vs. (11) Arizona Coyotes (ARZ wins series 3-1)

Sunday, Aug. 2: Coyotes 4, Predators 3 (recap)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Predators 4, Coyotes 2 (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Coyotes 4, Predators 1 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 7: Coyotes 4, Predators 3 (OT)

MORE:
2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Coyotes-Predators stream: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers

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NBCSN’s coverage of the NHL’s Return to Play continues with Friday’s Stanley Cup Qualifier matchup between the Coyotes and Predators. Live look-in coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Watch the Coyotes-Predators Game 4 stream at 2:30 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

After winning Game 1 by scoring four goals, Arizona did the same in Game 3, coming away with a 4-1 victory on to take back the series lead. Darcy Kuemper made 39 saves in Game 3; he made 40 saves in their Game 1 win.

The Coyotes wore their retro Kachina jerseys Wednesday and will continue to wear them in all “home” games (including today) throughout the playoffs.

A win in Game 4 will give the Coyotes their first series win in eight years. Since moving to Arizona from Winnipeg in 1996, the Coyotes franchise has won just two playoff series – both in 2012, when they defeated Chicago in the opening round and the Predators in the second round.

WHAT: Arizona Coyotes vs. Nashville Predators
WHERE: Rogers Place – Edmonton
WHEN: Friday, August 7, 2:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN (live look-in)
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Coyotes-Predators live look-in stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

(6) Nashville Predators vs. (11) Arizona Coyotes (ARZ leads 2-1)

Sunday, Aug. 2: Coyotes 4, Predators 3 (recap)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Predators 4, Coyotes 2 (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Coyotes 4, Predators 1 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 7: Predators vs. Coyotes, 2:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN (live look-in stream)
Sunday, Aug. 9: Coyotes vs. Predators* if necessary

MORE:
2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule

Predators tie series with Coyotes, take advantage of tough Game 2 for Kuemper

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With the Predators winning Game 2 by a score of 4-2 and tying the series 1-1, the script got flipped on the Coyotes.

In Game 1, it was Nashville that needed to fight uphill after playoff-inexperienced-but-impressive goalie Juuse Saros had a tough start. As great as Darcy Kuemper has been for the Coyotes for some time, Game 2 was not kind to an impressive goalie who still doesn’t have much of a playoff resume.

There was even a faint, late push to make Game 2 more competitive. The Coyotes sanded down a 4-0 deficit to a more respectable 4-2 score with two goals in the final minute, but it merely blemished Saros’ stats.

(Granted, maybe it gave the Coyotes a moderate confidence boost?)

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Saros outplays Kuemper in Game 2, helping Predators tie series vs. Coyotes

Despite opening with a 14-5 shots on goal edge, the Coyotes found themselves down 2-0 to the Predators after the first period. It was really only after Calle Jarnkrok put Nashville up 3-0 that the Predators even started to level the possession game. Eventually, Nashville did just that, evening things out with a pretty strong second period.

Saros looked sharp in Game 2, justifying John Hynes’ decision to stick with Saros even with pressure from some to turn to Pekka Rinne. That might be something for Coyotes fans and observers to keep in mind, then. Kuemper’s been a saving grace at times for Arizona, though he was a detriment to start Game 2.

Granted, some of that position also leans on the possibility that Antti Raanta might not be a much of an option, anyway.

After being a force with two assists in Game 1, Taylor Hall struggled in Game 2. Not only was Hall held off of the scoreboard, but he was also a detriment to his team in some ways. Hall was whistled for eight minutes worth of penalty time in Game 2 alone. Things got physical between Hall and Ryan Ellis during Game 2, and you can expect things to go that way as the series only intensifies.

For better or worse for the Coyotes, they won’t have much time to lick their wounds, as they’ll face the Predators in Game 3 on Wednesday afternoon. We’ll see if this series will continue to be unpredictable — right down to the play of the goalies.

(6) Nashville Predators vs. (11) Arizona Coyotes (Series tied 1-1)

Sunday, Aug. 2: Coyotes 4, Predators 3 (recap)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Predators 4, Coyotes 2
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Predators vs. Coyotes, 2:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Friday, Aug. 7: Predators vs. Coyotes, TBD
Sunday, Aug. 9: Coyotes vs. Predators*, TBD

* – If necessary

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Coyotes hold off Predators’ comeback to take Game 1

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The Coyotes denied a Predators comeback to take Game 1 of their Stanley Cup Qualifier series, 4-3.

Arizona came out flying in the first period, beating Juuse Saros three times in a span of 7:43. A fluky double deflection, a defensive zone turnover, and a power play would force Nashville to chase the rest of the game.

Nashville won the possession game, controlling 69% of shot attempts at 5-on-5, per Natural Stat Trick, but couldn’t solve Darcy Kuemper, who finished with 40 saves.

Before we move on, let’s take a look at Oliver Ekman-Larsson‘s wacky opening goal:

Undisciplined Predators

The momentum created as the Predators mounted a comeback was halted by penalties. They handed the Coyotes six power plays in Game 1, including one late in the third period while they continued controlling possession.

The Predators had their chances, but kept creating their own mistakes. Down 3-1, and on a power play late in the second period, Filip Forsberg‘s pass went right to Michael Grabner, who had plenty of space ahead for a shorthanded goal.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Rinne’s streak ends

Saros getting his first career playoff start meant that Pekka Rinne’s 89-game postseason streak came to an end.

Rinne’s streak began in 2010 and is the fourth-longest for a goalie in NHL history behind Martin Brodeur (194), Patrick Roy (133), and Henrik Lundqvist (128).

Who was the last Predators goalie to start a playoff game before Rinne’s streak began? That would be Dan Ellis.

Now comes decision time. It’s hard to pin the loss on Saros’, but coaches are prone to overreaction. Would Hynes make the decision to switch in order shake up his team in an 0-1 hole in a best-of-five series? The head coach has faith in both.

“I feel very confident in both goalies,” Hynes said on Saturday. “As we’ve said, in training camp, they were both very competitive and both played well and it’s a unique situation. I feel that the way that they are together, the way the compete and support each other, it’s helpful.”

Hynes did say Sunday after Game 1 he liked Saros’ game but does not have a decision on a Game 2 starter right now.

(6) Nashville Predators vs. (11) Arizona Coyotes

Tuesday, Aug. 4: Coyotes vs. Predators, 2:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Predators vs. Coyotes, 2:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Friday, Aug. 7: Predators vs. Coyotes*, TBD
Sunday, Aug. 9: Coyotes vs. Predators*, TBD

You can watch all the NHL playoff streams on the NBC Sports app.

MORE:
2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers schedule

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Coyotes vs. Predators: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Qualifier Preview

The NHL Stanley Cup Qualifiers kick off the Return to Play plan on August 1. This week, PHT will be previewing each series with a look at storylines and end with our predictions for the eight matchups. In this case, it’s Coyotes vs. Predators.

(6) Nashville Predators vs. (11) Arizona Coyotes: TV schedule, start times, channels

Sunday, Aug. 2: Coyotes vs. Predators, 2 p.m. ET – USA Network
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Coyotes vs. Predators, 2:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Predators vs. Coyotes, 2:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Friday, Aug. 7: Predators vs. Coyotes*, TBD
Sunday, Aug. 9: Coyotes vs. Predators*, TBD

Coyotes – Predators preview: Top storylines for Stanley Cup Qualifiers series

Taylor Hall and the Chayka Elephant in the Room

Wow, the Coyotes sure had a weekend, huh?

At this point, the he-said, they-said arguments are mainly for boardrooms and executives. Even Gary Bettman may need to intervene.

As with a lot of things in sports, the strange John Chayka situation probably won’t affect much of what happens on the ice. After all, this isn’t the Coyotes’ offseason. A GM’s job during the NHL Return to Play mainly boils down to observing, at least after training camp rosters were already determined.

But Chayka’s strange, messy departure does hammer at maybe the biggest storyline of this series: what about Taylor Hall?

While Hall brings almost comical draft lottery luck to his teams, the player himself seems star-crossed in almost Shakespearean ways. With that in mind, it’s all too (painfully) fitting that Hall seems primed to hit the free agent market at the worst possible time.

This messy behind-the-scenes situation seemingly makes it that much less likely for Hall to return to the Coyotes.

But who knows? Maybe the Coyotes would throw their checkbook at Hall to try to save face? Interim GM Steve Sullivan could have pushed the hardest for Hall, for all we know.

Hall’s future with the Coyotes is already a story, yet the bigger one is if he can drive up his value — or not. We’ll just need to wait to find out if it will be a happy story for Hall, for once.

Rinne vs. Saros: who should be Predators’ starting goalie?

Rinne or Saros Predators starting goalie vs. Coyotes
(Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

Bad news for people who hate any trace of politics in their sports. When it comes to goaltending situations, it’s not always about “let the best goalie win.” Sometimes teams lean on an old hand out of a feeling of loyalty, or a fear for the unknown.

Frankly, that’s naive, because the same goalie can produce wildly different results from year to year.

Pekka Rinne‘s done some great things for the Predators, and he’s not that far removed from some of his best work. (See: Rinne’s 2017-18 Vezina win.) Even so, it’s tough to ignore a rough 2019-20 season where Rinne managed a putrid .895 save percentage.

If you go based on recency alone, Juuse Saros demands the No. 1 spot. Saros outplayed Rinne in full season stats (.914 save percentage), but the smaller, younger Finnish goalie was especially proficient down the stretch. In 17 games after the 2020 NHL All-Star Game, Saros managed a tremendous .936 save percentage.

Yet, even then, there’s room for debate. While it’s most likely a coincidence, Saros experienced slow starts to both of the past two seasons before righting the ship. If he’s a slow starter, then maybe Rinne would be the better choice, especially as the far more experienced goalie?

Overall, maybe it’s a plus that John Hynes is here instead of Peter Laviolette. If nothing else, Hynes might be more open-minded about going with the hot hand. After all, Hynes wouldn’t cherish memories of Rinne’s best runs like Laviolette maybe would.

For all we know, that goalie battle may simply drag on as the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers go on. Either way, it would be refreshing if the No. 1 choice came down to perceived merit, rather than bowing down to puck politics.

Will the Coyotes continue to be the team with the dominant goalie tandem?

Despite the time, effort, and money sunk into improving the Coyotes on offense, this team continues to live and die by goaltending lately.

Luckily, that goaltending ranks among the best in the NHL basically since the calendar hit 2019.

Darcy Kuemper headlines that group, as he quietly put together tremendous work between the latter half of 2018-19 and early part of 2019-20. Things seemed to go sideways with expected starter Antti Raanta … until Raanta held down the fort while Kuemper got hurt.

Frankly, even with often-elite goaltending, the Coyotes had to scratch and claw to win games. What if the pandemic pause (understandably) threw Kuemper and/or Raanta off of their games? Mere marginal slippage might mar the Coyotes’ slim margin of error.

Will either coach make a big difference in Coyotes – Predators?

Months later, I’m still a little confounded by how emphatically the Predators chose John Hynes to succeed Laviolette.

Sure, it sounds like Hynes comes across as a nice guy. It’s also true that the Devils didn’t exactly provide Hynes with a fool-proof roster loaded with talent.

Still, it strikes as odd that the Predators reportedly didn’t interview other coaches. They confidently hired a coach who, frankly, didn’t enjoy much success as an NHL head coach. Maybe that makes sense for a rebuilding team, but for an aging, underachieving one like the Predators? One whose window to contend could close soon if certain things break the wrong way?

Yeah, it’s all confusing. But maybe Hynes will shine during the NHL Return to Play, both during the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers and (the Predators hope) beyond? The early results have been mixed, and Rick Tocchet has his own credible doubters, so we’ll see.

(We haven’t really seen Tocchet be a Phil Kessel whisperer, for example.)

Who’s out, Who might return for Coyotes, Predators?

Predators: While Nashville dealt with issues during the season, they entered the pause already getting healthier. So far, it looks like they’ll be close to full-strength.

Coyotes: It looks like Conor Garland and Jakob Chychrun are both over their pre-pause problems. Both Raanta and Kuemper dealt with in-season issues, so while rust might be a challenge, at least they’re likely to be healthy.

More on 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers, NHL Return to Play series:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.