How Do Opening Round NHL Playoff Qualifying Series Work?
Are you ready for this? Following a four-month pause, the NHL is set to return with three days of exhibition games, a qualifying round and then four rounds of Stanley Cup playoff action. To include teams that were fighting for a playoff position, when the regular season was cancelled with 189 games left on the schedule, the 2020 NHL playoff field was expanded from 16 to 24 teams. The top four in each conference received a BYE into the quarterfinals.
Those eight teams are playing two round robin series to determine the top seeds for the remaining playoff rounds. Colorado, Tampa Bay, St. Louis and Dallas begin the postseason as the top four seeds in the West. The other eight teams are playing four best-of-five qualifying series and the winner’s advance to the quarterfinals. Based on regular season win percentages, Nashville is the No. 6 seed and Arizona is the No. 11 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
Nashville vs. Arizona Qualifying Series Schedule
All games will be played at Rogers Place arena in Edmonton.
Game 1 - Sunday, Aug 2: Arizona @ Nashville 2:00 PM ET
Game 2 - Tuesday, Aug 4: Arizona @ Nashville 2:30 PM ET
Game 3 - Wednesday, Aug 5: Nashville @ Arizona 2:30 PM ET
Game 4 - Friday, Aug 7: Nashville @ Arizona Time TBD *
Game 5 - Sunday, Aug 9: Arizona @ Nashville Time TBD *
* If Necessary
Arizona Coyotes vs. Nashville Predators Series Preview
Arizona was five points out of a playoff spot when the regular season was cancelled and finished 11th overall in the Western Conference. The Coyotes (33-29-8) posted 74 points and were fifth overall in the Pacific Division. That was five points behind the fourth place Calgary Flames and 12 points back of the Vegas Golden Knights who finished first. Arizona is back in the playoffs for the time since 2012 when they advanced to the Western Conference Finals.
Nashville was streaky during the regular season but they were playing well during a 9-4-1 run prior to the season being paused. The Predators (35-26-8) finished 8th overall in the West, with 78 points, and fifth in the Central Division standings. Nashville earned the No. 6 seed by having one more regulation time win than Vancouver. Roman Josi, Filip Forsberg and Ryan Ellis lead a veteran group and the Predators are making their sixth straight playoff appearance.
These teams met twice during the regular season and the home team won both contests. Acquired in the offseason from Pittsburgh, Phil Kessel scored his first two goals with Arizona and the Coyotes won the first meeting 5-2 in October. Roman Josi had a goal and an assist and the Predators won the second game 3-2 in December. Over the last four seasons, Arizona holds a 6-4-1 series edge and five or fewer goals were scored in nine of those contests.
Although two of the last three meetings resulted in seven total goals, this projects as a low scoring series. Nashville averaged 3.12 goals per game (GPG) on offense and allowed 3.14 GPG on defense. Arizona struggled on offense, scoring 2.79 GPG, but the Coyotes 2.67 goals against average tied for third overall. Eleven players have been part of the last four Nashville playoff runs. Oliver Ekman-Larsson is the lone remaining player from the Coyotes 2012 playoff season.
Series Pick: Nashville Predators -134
Predators vs. Coyotes Game 1 Betting Odds
FanDuel has posted early Game 1 betting odds and Nashville is a slight favorite on the moneyline. The Predators are also puck line chalk and the game total is 5.5 with UNDER listed as the favorite. Nashville needs to stay out of the penalty box as they allowed 51 power play goals. That was the fourth most in the league. A quick start is important in a best-of-five series and offense should have an early edge over defense. Nashville -1.5 and OVER are my Game 1 picks.
Game 1 Picks: Predators -1.5 (+230) and OVER 5.5 goals (+110)
Futures Betting Odds - Exact Outcome of the Series
DraftKings is offering an “Exact Outcome of the Series” prop that features odds on the final score of this playoff matchup. Nashville is loaded with playoff experience but the Coyotes defense should help Arizona avoid a 3-0 series sweep. Nashville winning 3-1 or 3-2 both have fairly rich prices and it’s a tough call between the two. The Predators have won three of their last four first round playoff series and a better offense will lead Nashville to a 3-1 win over Arizona.
Series Exact Score: 3-1 Nashville Predators +375