After eight long years, the Arizona Coyotes have finally won a playoff series. The Coyotes defeated the Nashville Predators three games to one to move on to the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. In doing so, they will square off against the Colorado Avalanche. Arizona did many things well against Nashville that led to their victory in four games, such as:
The key contributors of Arizona’s offence actually produced. In four games against Nashville, six Coyotes players recorded three or more points. Those players being Clayton Keller, Phil Kessel, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Taylor Hall, Christian Dvorak and Derek Stepan. On top of that, eleven players scored at least one goal. Arizona, as a whole, was so productive, only three players didn’t record at least one point and Barrett Hayton only played in two games. Arizona scored at least two goals per game and scored four goals in three out of four games.
The standout player had to be Clayton Keller. Keller has made strides in his game over the last year to become a more well rounded player. On top of that, he’s moved the puck around well and improved his passing. As such, he’s limited turnovers which has is also making him a huge asset on the power play. One of his two goals in the NHL play-in round came on the power play.
Michael Grabner’s rise from the ashes was much appreciated. He was an important factor to Arizona’s offence. Not only did Grabner score a shorthanded goal in game one, but he also scored the first goal in game four. Grabner was one of the most important players on Arizona’s penalty kill until his eye injury took him out last season. This season, he just wasn’t very good and found himself as a healthy scratch in many games this season. To see him return to form was great to see and he will be a huge asset moving into the second round starting Wednesday.
Last, but certainly not least, the best goaltender over the last two seasons that will never receive proper credit, Darcy Kuemper. While Kuemper did surrender three plus goals in three out of four games, his performance can be described as nothing but greatness. Two of the goals given up in game one deflected off of an Arizona defensemen and would’ve seen him record two games with one goal allowed.
The amount of bending by the defence in front of him didn’t help him either, nor was the amount of shots he faced. Kuemper would register between thirty-nine and forty-nine saves in three of four games. The degree in which Kuemper stood on his head had to be seen to be believed and there is no doubt that Arizona would’ve lost the series had it not been for Kuemper.
The best way to summarize Arizona’s performance during the series would be the offence showed up in a big way and Darcy Kuemper is almost a god among men. Arizona played to their strengths and that led to their shortcomings being manageable. The Coyotes move on to face Colorado with a ton of confidence and momentum and it will be an interesting series to watch.