Perfect Lineups: Nashville vs. Arizona (NHL Playoffs Preview)

Updated: July 20, 2020 at 10:18 am by Brock Seguin

The NHL is tentatively scheduled to return on August 1st with teams starting their post-COVID-19 training camps on July 13th.

With over four months off, the NHL has created a unique new playoff format that features 24 teams (12 in each Conference). The bottom eight teams in each Conference will go head-to-head in a best-of-5 series as a “play-in” round to give us the traditional playoff look in what can be considered “round 2.”

At DailyFaceoff we are used to updating the lineups every single day to give you the most accurate NHL Line Combinations available. With no practices since March, I have looked back at the 2020 season and put together each team’s “perfect” lineup based on their underlying numbers together. I used MoneyPuck’s Line Stats and NaturalStatTrick’s WOWY Tool to unearth the data.

I will be breaking down each of the Play-In Series with their “perfect” lineups and putting them through the NHL20 Simulator to project our eight winners. I started with the (No.5) Edmonton Oilers vs. the (No.12) Chicago Blackhawks and now let’s look at the (No.6) Nashville Predators vs. (No.11) Arizona Coyotes.


Forwards

Nashville Predators

CF%

SCF/60

SCA/60

xGF%

L1: Forsberg – Duchene – Granlund

58.16

33.54

22.62

56.78

L2: Jarnkrok – Johansen – Arvidsson

52.89

25.77

24.71

52.23

L3: Grimaldi – Bonino – Smith

54.78

32.64

27.89

57.08

L4: Trenin – Turris – Sissons

44.07

17.05

29.84

33.96

The Nashville Predators were not afraid to tinker with their lines throughout the season but had some pretty steady trios. The one line that is for certain is Line 3. Rocco Grimaldi, Nick Bonino and Craig Smith have played together a ton this season and have been Nashville’s most consistent line. They did a nice job creating offence despite being used in a defensive role.

The other constants for Nashville are Matt Duchene and Mikael Granlund together as a duo. They spent 63 percent of their ice time together and were very strong, posting a 56.9 CorsiFor% and 58.36 xGF% together. They were at their best when Filip Forsberg was the third member of that line, which should come as no surprise. The other was Ryan Johansen with Viktor Arvidsson when Arvidsson was healthy. The 27-year-old missed 12 games with a lower-body in the early portion of the season but played 58 percent of his 5v5 ice-time with Johansen in the middle. For Johansen and Arvidsson, their xGF% goes from 47.49 without Jarnkrok to 52.23 with him, so he’s the logical choice to play on the left side.

That leaves Kyle Turris, Austin Watson, Colton Sissons and Yakov Trenin to play on the fourth line. Nashville is capable of icing a very strong fourth line and they will need it in this series. The Coyotes roster is very balanced and their bottom-6 can be very difficult to score on.

Arizona Coyotes

CF%

SCF/60

SCA/60

xGF%

L1: Hall – Dvorak – Garland

50.55

34.72

27.92

56.6

L2: Keller – Schmaltz – Kessel

49.66

22.24

27.01

43.79

L3: Crouse – Stepan – Hinostroza

54.14

29.16

28.2

51.55

L4: Soderberg – Richardson – Fischer

48.72

27.1

23.91

54.88

The Coyotes will be happy to get Conor Garland back after he suffered a lower-body injury right before the season paused. His season was over until the NHL extended the playoffs and put the Coyotes into the mix. Garland led the team in goals (22) and was third in points (39) in 68 games this season. While it was a terrific season for Garland, that shows the lack of production the Coyotes had all season–ranking 23rd in the NHL in GF/gm. They leaned heavily on their goaltending, who had the third-best SV% (.919) in the NHL.

After Taylor Hall was acquired from the New Jersey Devils, he spent 84 percent of his 5v5 ice-time with Christian Dvorak. Garland was often the third member of that line and they produced the best results of any line, posting a 56.6 xGF% in over 250 minutes together.

On the second line, Phil Kessel has actually been better with Derek Stepan in the middle than Nick Schmaltz but Stepan has been better utilized with Vinnie Hinostroza in a defensive posture. Stepan and Brad Richardon’s lines are often used against the opposition’s best lines, so expect to see a lot of Johansen vs. Stepan and Duchene vs. Richardson. While that works for Arizona, that is also best-suited for the Predators who want the Bonino line to shutdown Hall and Co.

It will be extremely interesting to see which “scoring” line can find room out there. And even when they do, both teams have strong two-headed monsters between the pipes.

Defensemen

Nashville Predators

TOI/GM

CF%

xGF%

OZone%

D1: Josi – Ellis

25:19 | 23:55

54.4

57.99

52.49

D2: Ekholm – Fabbro

23:13 | 17:46

51.45

47.89

51.82

D3: Hamhuis – Weber

13:50 | 14:28

47.14

47.20

46.092

Nashville has two extremely strong pairings and they lean on them heavily. Their top-4 is on the ice about 80 percent of the time and their top-pair is among the best in the NHL. Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis will see a lot of the Hall line but will also be asked to chip in a lot offensively. Josi was fifth on the team with 16 goals in 69 games.

Mattias Ekholm is so important to the Predators and no one ever talks about him. He eats all the minutes when Josi/Ellis comes off of the ice and is tasked to do so with a rookie partner. Throughout the season, he actually played better with Dan Hamhuis as his partner but Dante Fabbro struggled away from him. With that being the case, they will almost certainly be paired up and take on the Kessel line more often than not.

Arizona Coyotes

TOI/GM

CF%

xGF%

OZone%

D1: Ekman-Larsson – Demers

22:44 | 18:03

46.68

47.32

46.4

D2: Goligoski – Hjalmarsson

23:00 | 19:59

54.29

57.79

46.34

D3: Chychrun – Oesterle

22:51 | 19:17

44.03

49.81

42.42

Jakob Chychrun spent most of the season with Alex Goligoski but they may have found something while he was out with an injury. With Chychrun sidelined, Goligoski was paired with Niklas Hjalmarsson and they were their best D-pair of the season (statistically).

With Chychrun at 100 percent, Ilya Lyubushkin will likely come out of the lineup and that leaves Jason Demers to play with Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The duo is familiar with each other, having played 78 percent of Demers’ 5v5 minutes together. They did struggle at times together but they are facing the oppositions top-6 on a nightly basis.

NHL 20 Simulation

Predators Win 3-2

  • Game 1: NSH [1] – [0] ARI (OT)

    Game 2: ARI [3] – [0] NSH

    Game 3: NSH [3] – [1] ARI

    Game 4: ARI [3] – [1] NSH

    Game 5: NSH [3] – [2] ARI

Scoring Leaders

Rank

Player (Team)

Goals

Assists

Points

1

B. Richardson (ARI)

2

2

4

t-2

F. Forsberg (NSH)

2

1

3

t-2

C. Jarnkrok (NSH)

1

2

3

t-2

M. Granlund (NSH)

1

2

3

t-2

M. Duchene (NSH)

1

2

3

t-2

C. Fischer (ARI)

1

2

3

t-7

R. Johansen (NSH)

1

1

2

t-7

V. Arvidsson (NSH)

1

1

2

t-7

R. Josi (NSH)

1

1

2

t-7

L. Crouse (ARI)

1

1

2

t-7

D. Stepan (ARI)

1

1

2

t-7

T. Hall (ARI)

1

1

2

t-7

C. Smith (NSH)

0

2

2

t-7

D. Fabbro (NSH)

0

2

2

t-7

A. Goligoksi (ARI)

0

2

2

t-7

J. Oesterle (ARI)

0

2

2

t-7

O. Ekman-Larsson (ARI)

0

2

2

t-18

P. Kessel (ARI)

1

0

1

t-18

C. Soderberg (ARI)

1

0

1

t-18

C. Garland (ARI)

1

0

1

t-18

K. Turris (NSH)

0

1

1

t-18

J. Chychrun (ARI)

0

1

1

t-18

N. Hjalmarsson (ARI)

0

1

1

t-18

V. Hinostroza (ARI)

0

1

1

t-18

C. Dvorak (ARI)

0

1

1

Goalies

Player (Team)

Record

GAA

SV%

SO

P. Rinne (NSH)

3-2

1.76

0.909

1

D. Kuemper (ARI)

2-3

1.56

0.929

1


Alex Goligoski, Arizona Coyotes, Austin Watson, Brad Richardson, Calle Jarnkrok, Carl Soderberg, Christian Dvorak, Christian Fischer, Clayton Keller, Colton Sissons, Conor Garland, Craig Smith, Dan Hamhuis, Dante Fabbro, Derek Stepan, Filip Forsberg, Jakob Chychrun, Jason Demers, Jordan Oesterle, Kyle Turris, Lawson Crouse, Matt Duchene, Mattias Ekholm, Mikael Granlund, Nashville Predators, NHL Playoffs, Nick Bonino, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Phil Kessel, Rocco Grimaldi, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Ryan Johansen, Schmaltz, Taylor Hall, Viktor Arvidsson, Vinnie Hinostroza, Yannick Weber