GLENDALE, AZ - MARCH 08: Eric Belanger #20 of the Phoenix Coyotes skates out onto the ice before the NHL game against the Vancouver Canucks at Jobing.com Arena on March 8, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
It is a Tale of Two Cities for the Phoenix Coyotes. After beating the NHL's worst team in the Edmonton Oilers, tonight they face the NHL's best in the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks have already punched their ticket to the post-season by clinching the division title and earning the right to be called NHL's best with 103 points and ten games remaining.
The Coyotes by contrast still have work to do to solidify their position in the standings and they are collecting every point they can to make a second consecutive appearance in the playoffs.
Is grabbing two points from Vancouver in any way possible? Can they continue their win streak tonight? Or better yet, will Vancouver let them?
The last time these two teams met was March 8 at Jobing.com arena where the Coyotes found a way to hold themselves together as they missed four starters from their lineup. They came out swinging, scored first, and took a point away from the best team in the league.
This performance sparked the current win streak and they are still without key players such as Martin Hanzal and Ed Jovanovski.
The Vancouver Canucks have not stopped their onslaught of dominating teams and earning the respect around the league as teams have to contend with their overall team system. With offensive players such as Henrik and Daniel Sedin, and Ryan Kessler, along with stellar goaltending by Roberto Luongo, the Coyotes will once again have to face a serious challenge.
The Canucks have their own injuries to contend with and one of their more solid centermen is out for the season due to being hit in the eye with a puck. The injury required surgery and their top face-off guy will not be available. That puts added pressure on Kessler who ranks second on the team in face-off percentage.
Another issue for the Canucks is their banged up blue line but they have more than compensated for their loss. Having a elite goaltender helps, but being able to score goals and put teams away helps even more. It is the only area that the Coyotes can exploit.
However, last night the Coyotes played one of their worst games of the season against the worst team in the NHL; they were extremely fortunate to come away with two points. Coyotes' forward Ray Whitney quipped in the AP recap, "We didn't play very good at all. If we play like that (in Vancouver) they could score in double digits."
No kidding. The Coyotes took a total of nine penalties last night and luckily for them, the 30th ranked power play didn't light them up like a Christmas tree. If they do that again, they will find themselves completely crushed under the number one ranked power play of the Vancouver Canucks.
Continuing their win streak against the best team in hockey will be a true measuring test for the Coyotes to see where they are right now. They must immediately clean up their game and return to good habits.
Five for Winning
- Play disciplined hockey - stay out of the penalty box and keep the game at five-on-five. If the game turns into a specialty team free-for-all, they are clearly mismatched and the advantage is solidly on Vancouver's side.
- Win more face-offs than Vancouver to control the game. With Malhotra out, they have a chance to control the pace.
- Limit the Sedin twins. They will still get their opportunities, but if they can somehow contain these two, they might be able to steal this game.
- Stop turning the puck over. The Coyotes turned the puck over at inopportune times last night and it was just sheer luck that it didn't cost them the victory.
- Continue to protect the goaltender. With Bryzgalov's appearance last night, there is a strong chance that Jason LaBarbera will find the rare start.
Best guess here as Ilya Bryzgalov faced a lot of shots last night against the Oilers.
|2010 - Jason LaBarbera||16||823||6||6||47||3.43||482||435||.902||2|
|2010 - Roberto Luongo||53||3171||33||13||118||2.23||1567||1449||.925||3|
|2010 - Taylor Pyatt||17||11||28||12||25|
|2010 - Ryan Kesler||36||28||64||22||58|
Phoenix Coyotes Injuries
Vancouver Canucks Injuries