2020 Stanley Cup Playoff Preview: Coyotes vs. Avalanche

Brad Richardson and Rick Tocchet discuss the Arizona Coyotes staying energized after giving up a tying goal with seconds remaining in the game, and how it felt to score the series clinching OT winner to eliminate the Nashville Predators.

The Arizona Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche are two very different teams.

Colorado is a high-powered offence driven by a couple top players, especially Nathan MacKinnon. The Coyotes are more spread out and find success in a group effort. If this series opens up, Colorado will have the advantage. But if the goals are kept to a minimum, Darcy Kuemper is the type of keeper who could steal a series — though he hasn’t truly proven it yet.

The Avalanche arrive here as the second seed in the West after the round-robin, while Arizona is the seventh-best seed left after upsetting Nashville in the qualifiers.

Here’s how the two teams matchup:

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ADVANCED STATS

Regular season 5-on-5 numbers via Natural Stat Trick (with league rank)

Arizona: 48.37 CF% (24th), 50.20 GF% (16th), 92.93 SV% (4th), 7.27 SH% (27th), 1.002 PDO (16th)

Colorado: 51.60 CF% (8th), 58.48 GF% (1st), 93.16 SV% (3rd), 9.12 SH% (5th), 1.023 PDO (1st)

REGULAR SEASON TEAM STATS

Arizona: 19.2 PP% (18th), 82.7 PK% (5th), 195 GF (21st), 187 GA (3rd)

Colorado: 19.1 PP% (19th), 81.4 PK% (13th), 236 GF (4th), 190 GA (7th)

HEAD TO HEAD RECORD

Arizona: 1-0-1

Colorado: 1-1-0

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The story of the qualifying round:

The Coyotes relied on excellent goaltending and balanced scoring in the regular season and that’s exactly what we got from them against the Nashville Predators. Kuemper was a calming presence in the crease. That series could’ve been ugly were it not for him. His .933 save percentage and 2.77 GAA don’t do his performance justice. The Coyotes were outshot in all four games, peppering Kuemper with 163 shots in the four outings.

Their top forward trio of Christian Dvorak between Taylor Hall and Phil Kessel has looked like a legit No. 1 line. With high-end speed and skill along the flanks, they combined for 11 points in four games.

It has been a crazy past month behind the scenes for the Coyotes, but the players haven’t let it affect them on the ice.

“Throughout the year, we’ve had some resiliency, a little bit of noise with this club and that’s a microcosm for us being able to deal with that,” Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet said after his team eliminated the Preds.

The Avalanche earned a dramatic, last-second victory over the Blues, then blanked the Stars and fell to the Golden Knights in overtime during round-robin play.

The defence helped out on offence in the regular season but only combined for four points in the past three games, so that’s not ideal. However, trade deadline acquisition Vladislav Namestnikov hasn’t looked out of place skating on the top line beside MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen.

The team should feel confident regardless of which goalie is in net. Philipp Grubauer allowed five goals in two starts while Pavel Francouz stopped all 27 shots he faced in his lone start of the round-robin.

Arizona Coyotes X-Factor: Michael Grabner

Anecdotally speaking, Grabner gets roughly 10 breakaways each game. The winger is among the speediest forwards in the game and was a solid contributor in a fourth-line role and on the penalty kill. Not bad considering prior to the series it wasn’t even clear whether or not he would slot into the lineup or possibly be a healthy scratch. He scored twice against the Predators, including a beauty to open the scoring in Game 4, and was right on the doorstep when linemate Brad Richardson buried the series clincher in overtime.

Colorado Avalanche X-Factor: Nazem Kadri

Kadri doesn’t have much playoff experience in his 11-year NHL career and has never made it out of the first round. He hopes that changes this season and the centre had a strong showing in the round-robin. Playing on a line with Gabriel Landeskog and Valeri Nichushkin, Kadri can expect to frequently be lined up against Arizona’s top two lines.

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