Darcy Kuemper made 40 saves for the Arizona Coyotes in a 4-3 win against the Nashville Predators in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers on Sunday.
The Nashville Predators had to wait 146 days to play real, meaningful hockey again. Then, after all that waiting, they still looked unprepared and outmatched in taking on the Arizona Coyotes. They came out of the gate slow, made too many mistakes when the game was still being decided, and “turned it on” too late to change the outcome.
If you are a Nashville Predators fan, it looked very similar to the team we watched during the 2019-20 season.
Falling behind 3-1 in the 1st period, then 4-1 in the 2nd period, the Preds looked lost out on the ice. For the first 40 minutes of the game, it seemed as if they were waiting for the game to start. The Coyotes were the first to the puck, more creative in their breakouts and more sturdy in their defense. Darcy Kuemper looked sharper than Juuse Saros. Alex Goligoski and Oliver Ekman-Larsson looked more confident than Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis. Phil Kessel was a better offensive weapon than Matt Duchene.
How does this happen? After the long delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, you’d think the Preds would be ready to go at puck drop, eager to prove that their roster isn’t just excellent on paper, it’s actually excellent on the ice.