NHL.com goes Behind the Numbers to identify key statistics for each of the eight best-of-5 series in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. Today, a look at the matchup between the Nashville Predators and Arizona Coyotes.
[RELATED: Predators-Coyotes Qualifier Series debated by NHL.com]
The Nashville Predators ranked ninth in shot attempts differential (plus-121) and tied for eighth in 5-on-5 goals (152) with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Nashville's success at even-strength this season is surprising considering its leading scorer was defenseman Roman Josi with 65 points (16 goals, 49 assists) and two Predators forwards had at least 42 points (Filip Forsberg, Matt Duchene). The good news for the Predators is their even-strength productivity can help to offset their power-play unit, which ranks 25th (17.3 percent) in the League. The Arizona Coyotes ranked 24th in SAT (minus-215) and scored 130 goals 5-on-5 goals which tied for 21st with the Buffalo Sabres and Anaheim Ducks, giving the Predators the advantage at even strength.
5-on-5 save percentage
The Coyotes made up for their lack of 5-on-5 scoring with elite goaltending. Arizona ranked fourth in 5-on-5 save percentage (92.9 percent). No. 1 goalie Darcy Kuemper finished third in the League with a .928 save percentage behind Anton Khudobin of the Dallas Stars (.930) and Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins (.929) among goalies to play at least 20 games. Kuemper also excelled at even-strength, where he again finished third with a .934 save percentage behind Khudobin (.945) and Rask (.939), which could make this a low-scoring series. Despite Predators goalie Pekka Rinne having the lowest save percentage (.895) of his NHL career this season, Nashville managed to tie with the New York Rangers for 12th in team 5-on-5 save percentage (92 percent). This could be due to backup goalie Juuse Saros going 12-5-1 with a .934 save percentage since Jan. 1, including a .940 save percentage at even-strength, which was tied for second with Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning among those to play at least 15 games over the span. The numbers suggest that the Predators may want to consider starting Saros against the Coyotes.
Video: NSH@DAL: Saros makes 37 saves for consecutive shutout
It might be difficult for the Predators to make adjustments and improve their power play against the Coyotes, who had the fifth-best penalty kill (82.7 percent) in the NHL. Compare this to Nashville's penalty kill, which tied for 28th in the League with the Ottawa Senators (76.1 percent), and Arizona has the clear advantage. When examined further, Rinne had a .780 save percentage when facing the opposing teams' power play, which ranked last in the League among goalies to play at least 20 games. Saros had a .890 save percentage at the same situation, which was eighth-best among goalies to play at least 20 games. Nashville may need to rely on Saros to be its best penalty-killer against the Coyotes.
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