The Nashville Predators and Arizona Coyotes are still several weeks away from facing off in the Qualifying Round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs (if they play at all). But that hasn’t stopped us from previewing the upcoming series, like we did last week and like we will do over the next few weeks.
On the surface, this looks like a fairly even matchup. Each team has inconsistencies, each team has strengths. Each team has talented offensive players, each team has excellent skating defensemen. And each team also has a solid pair of goaltenders, which can always make for a fantastic playoff series.
Then there’s each team’s power play units.
Preds vs. Coyotes: No Man Advantage
The Arizona Coyotes finished the regular season with the 18th best power play in the league, scoring on the man advantage 19.4% of the team. While this is an improvement from the previous season, where they scored only 16.3% of the time and finished 26th, it’s still nothing to brag about.
Any team not scoring on the power play 20% of the time in today’s NHL isn’t doing something right.
And speaking of not doing something right: the Nashville Predators power play.
The much maligned unit for the Preds finished the regular season 25th in the league, scoring only 17.3% of the time. They too improved upon their 2018-19 numbers, which saw them finish dead last in the league in power play percentage, but let’s be honest, no one is impressed by this fact.
Making a habit of bad power plays
The power play struggles for each of these teams is far more than just their disappointing 2019-20 statistics. The Preds and Coyotes have consistently been in the bottom half of the league over the last three years.
While the Coyotes have at least been consistently bad over the last few years, the Predators have declined very rapidly over the last couple of seasons. At one point in the Peter Laviolette era, the Predators were a top-15 power play unit, but personnel changes like trading away Shea Weber and losing James Neal in the expansion draft saw the unit change dramatically.
Right now the Preds’ power play unit is still trying to figure out what it wants to be. After the coaching change in January, there were early signs that the power play would be more focused on high-low, across the slot passing movement. Look at this beautiful power play goal by Mikael Granlund on January 29th against the Capitals for the best example of this.
But then for whatever reason, things slowly returned to “the old Preds power play” where players panic on the boards and shots from the point are seemingly the only option. The habit of “just get it to the blueline” is hard to break if you aren’t used to having options in the slot and circles that can score consistently.
If there’s any good news for the Nashville Predators it’s that their power play was on a 5-for-15 run in their last four games of the regular season. But given that this was over three months ago now, it’s hard to see how that momentum will mean anything.
Inept power plays with skilled players
The truly odd thing for each team is how stacked their roster is with power play talent. The Predators boast two excellent power-play-ready players in Filip Forsberg and Roman Josi, not to mention their top prize of last summer Matt Duchene, who has been a solid power play scoring option over his 11 years in the NHL.
The Coyotes have a couple of young studs in the power play department, including Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz. Their combined 24 assists on the power play are more than Forsberg, Duchene, and Ryan Johansen have combined for the Preds. Add Phil Kessel, Taylor Hall, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson to the mix and you have what should be a dangerous power play unit for the Coyotes.
But somehow, neither the Preds or Coyotes find themselves with a particularly strong unit when on the man advantage. It’s baffling, really.
No doubt after a long suspension due to the coronavirus and the impact of not having sports in our lives for over three months, fans of the Nashville Predators and Arizona Coyotes are just going to be happy with having hockey back in their lives. But just a suggestion to each fan base: perhaps you should be rooting for the refs to call as few penalties as possible so we are not subjected to these two terrible power play units.
— Featured image via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports —