The Arizona Coyotes kicked off their 2014-15 campaign by losing 6-2 to the Winnipeg Jets. The schedule does not get any kinder for them though, as they face off against the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings tonight at Gila River Arena.
Matchup at a Glance
|Los Angeles Kings||Arizona Coyotes|
|Points||0 (6th Pacific)||0 (7th Pacific)|
|Goals Per Game||0 (T-29th)||2 (T-18th)|
|Goals Against Per Game||4 (T-21st)||6 (T-29th)|
|Power Play||0/5 (0%)||0/3 (0%)|
|Penalty Kill||3/4 (75%)||5/5 (100%)|
View from Los Angeles
The Los Angeles Kings had a nice banner raising ceremony commemorating their most recent Stanley Cup victory. Unfortunately for them, that was probably the nicest thing that happened that night. The visiting San Jose Sharks steamrolled the Kings en route to a 4-0 victory that probably did little to assuage the shame of blowing a 3-0 series lead in the playoffs the season before.
This continues a trend of surprisingly underwhelming regular seasons from Los Angeles in recent years. Jonathan Quick struggled in net once again and the Los Angeles offense sputtered. They have quite a bit to fix going into tonight's game.
View from Arizona
If there was one team that had more problems than the Kings in its season opener, it would probably be Arizona. The Coyotes surrendered four goals in a nightmarish first period that featured bad defense from its best defenseman (Oliver Ekman-Larsson), poor goaltending from its No. 1 netminder (Mike Smith) and sloppy play from its forward corps.
While conceding goals on the scale that Arizona did is not good for any NHL team, there are a few bright spots from the opener. The penalty kill went a solid 5 for 5, including a stretch of 4-on-3 play, with the combination of fast and strong on the PK (David Moss with Brandon McMillan, for example) seemed to be effective. If the penalty kill improves, Coyotes' special teams overall will be much better than they were in years past.
Keys to the Game
- All About the Fundamentals - Multiple Coyotes had poor games Thursday evening, thanks in large part to poor fundamental play. Arizona will need to improve its decision making when it comes to zone entries, defensive pinches, and positional play in the crease.
- Good Things Happen to Good People - Adding to what may have been the worst game in the career of Oliver Ekman-Larsson were several ill-timed penalties that either stifled the Coyotes' forecheck or negated an upcoming power play altogether. That has to change in this game.
- Get Gagner Going - Sam Gagner looked like he was having difficulty adjusting to his new teammates in the first game. Arizona desperately needs him to start producing points this season.
Right now Martin Jones is looking pretty good on the Kings bench. In actuality, there are not a whole lot of players who looked particularly good in their season opener. But Drew Doughty seems to love to play Arizona, so watch out for him tonight.
Two other players that the Coyotes are going to rely on for offense did manage to get on the scoresheet Thursday night. Mikkel Boedker scored a goal from the high slot thanks to a nice pass from Shane Doan, and Martin Hanzal corralled a rebound in front of the net to score the team's second. Hanzal and Boedker having career years would be immeasurably helpful to the Coyotes' playoff chances.
The Kings will be skating without two of their role players. Defenseman and fancy stat darling Jake Muzzin (upper body) and center Trevor Lewis (upper body) will both be out for tonight's game.
The Coyotes will skate a healthy roster.
Tonight's game begins at 6 p.m. at Gila River Arena in Glendale. You can catch the game on Fox Sports Arizona or 98.7 FM.