After a fairly long break in which I can only hope Dave Tippett had everyone doing bag skates, the Phoenix Coyotes return to the ice in Glendale to face the Nashville Predators. Thus far the Coyotes have been inconsistent at best from game to game and down right poor on the puck at times. They'll look to break the cycle of having a couple soft games followed by one decent one as Derek Morris and Martin Hanzal return to the lineup. Hanzal is probably our most defensively solid forward at this point and we could use him back as his shutdown play has been sorely missed. Maybe tonight with him back in the lineup we'll see exactly what the team misses when he's sidelined.
The Predators on the other hand are plagued with injuries. Former Coyote Matthew Lombardi is out indefinitely with a concussion, Marcel Goc and Ryan Suter are also not expected to play with a leg and shoulder injury respectively. Even with those players out the Predators have found a way to win games that maybe they shouldn't have. Especially with Pekka Rinne out for a stretch at the beginning of the year. Rookie Anders Lindback played well in relief. They're a team very similar to ours in that they rely on scoring by committee rather than having a constant number one line.
Five for Winning:
The Hanzal Effect: After being out 6 games Martin Hanzal comes back, as mentioned earlier. With how he's able to shutdown other teams' top lines and set a defensive tone for the team at large he could be a big part in returning the Coyotes to the win column. It's hard to say exactly what he'll bring tonight, but I'd expect that this early in the season they wouldn't have brought him back at less than 100% especially since Andrew Ebbett wasn't doing too badly in relief.
Whiny Whitney?: The Howlosphere was abuzz today with quotes from Ray Whitney, yet to be confirmed by local media, that playing in front of small crowds wasn't exactly his cup of tea. Guess what would be better though Ray? If you actually kept the puck in the zone when playing point on the power play and if you got on the score sheet. Last year showed that winning = fans. Winning early will get them out there faster buddy. Worry about the on ice stuff since it's what you're paid for.
Turnover Fiesta: In terms of clear giveaways of the puck the Coyotes actually do fairly well with only 52 giveaways on the season. THat's good for 3rd overall in the league. Unfortunately what isn't counted there is the number of times that the Coyotes get the zone take one weak shot and give up possession. It's just as frustrating as when we pass forever on the power play, but you know the opposite. If we could find the balance between passing and shooting on both 5 on 5 and with the extra man it would probably work a lot better.
Make a good first pass: The book is apparently out on the Coyotes Power Play too. I've noticed that teams have consistantly been attacking the puck carrier as he enters to make him either cough the puck up directly, or to make a weak pass that's easy to clear. As the Coyotes got away from the dump and chase and went to a carry in the zone style they likely went too far in that direction. With our team speed the dump and chase can work so long as it's not exclusively done. Having a balanced strategy keeps the other team guessing which they just aren't doing right now. If the Coyotes are going to carry in then that first pass needs to keep possession so that the team can set up effectively.
I'ma keep saying it: Get the opposition shot count down! 35.1 shots a game puts the Coyotes at 4th worst in preventing them. What's alright though is that in terms of teams giving up those numbers the difference isn't terrible. The team averages 31. 4 shots a game themselves. What's problematic is that we only seem to be able to convert them into goals in short bursts then go long stretches with nothing. If we're not going to increase goal scoring yet (At some point is has to go up right? RIGHT?!) Then we have to keep the opposition down.
Put up or shutup guy. I know I mentioned it before, but if you're not doing your part on the ice then just shut your mouth until you do. A couple of nice assists have been great, but When he usually gets 20 goals a year and has a total of zero 10 games in? Do your job.
HAHAHAHAHA. No. Not really. The other day he was dressed and on the bench and got no ice time. Why even bother?