The St. Louis Blues were already considered one of the best teams in the league this year. They have a suffocating, physical defense, and an underrated yet potent offense. The Phoenix Coyotes were going to have their hands full no matter what.
And then the Blues made a bigger splash.
Last week, St. Louis acquired Ryan Miller and Steve Ott from the Buffalo Sabres in a five player blockbuster deal that saw them send back Jaroslav Halak and Chris Stewart, along with a minor league prospect and some draft picks. Those two villains have been a thorn in the Coyotes' side for years, and now they will take on Phoenix as part of a significantly better team than in years past.
Matchup at a Glance
|St. Louis Blues||Phoenix Coyotes|
|Points||84 (2nd Central)||65 (5th Pacific)|
|Goals Per Game||3.20 (2nd)||2.72 (15th)|
|Goals Against Per Game||2.27 (3rd)||2.85 (21st)|
|Power Play Percentage||21.1% (T-5th)||20.8% (T-9th)|
|Penalty Kill Percentage||85.6% (3rd)||79.6% (26th)|
St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues are a team with few, if any, weaknesses. They score a lot of goals while conceding very few. Unsurprisingly, that means they are near the top of the league. If there is anything that suggest the Blues have a weak spot, it is that their road record is nearly identical to the Coyotes' home record.
Although the acquisition of Miller and Ott from the Sabres is not without its critics, the Coyotes are definitely not happy to see St. Louis' two newest additions. Ryan Miller is 6-0-0 in his career against Phoenix, and Steve Ott has been a pest to the Coyotes dating back to his time with the Dallas Stars.
For more on the St. Louis Blues, be sure to check out St. Louis Game Time.
At a time when the Desert Dogs needed to come storming out of the gates towards a playoff position, they have instead tripped on the starting line. After losing in a shootout to the Winnipeg Jets, the Coyotes lost in regulation to the Colorado Avalanche. Although dropping the second half of a road back-to-back in today's NHL is understandable, there are some other worrying trends that the Coyotes are running out of time to fix.
For starters, the once dominant offense of the team has now gone dormant. There was a time when the Coyotes were a Top 5 scoring offense in the NHL; they are now on the verge of dropping into the bottom half of the league in goals per game. Although the defense has improved quite significantly in that time, it has not improved to the level that the offense has fallen off, and the penalty kill remains a hot mess. This is the time of year that the Coyotes have to play their best hockey, and right now they are not doing that.
Keys to the Game
- Get in Front of Miller - Phoenix has tremendous difficulty screening the goaltender. Yet for players like Ryan Miller, it is essential to generating second and third chances. Martin Hanzal, Shane Doan, Antoine Vermette, and other big bodies need to prevent Miller from seeing what's coming.
- Get in Front of Ott - More generally, the Coyotes do not want to get beat up and down the ice by the Blues' fowards. Mike Smith played a pretty good game in Winnipeg; making his job easier tonight is the best chance Phoenix has of getting a win.
- Get in Front of the Game - This does not necessarily mean scoring first (since the Coyotes lost both of the last two games while still scoring first). This means playing to the team's strengths, not making any mental mistakes, and not allowing St. Louis to dictate the flow of play.
Player to Watch
#11 / Center / Phoenix Coyotes
Feb 20, 1987
|2013 - Martin Hanzal||15||22||37||-5||71|
Martin Hanzal is going to be a busy man dealing with the likes of David Backes and Steve Ott. He will need a solid, physical two way game for the Coyotes tonight.
#41 / Goalie / Phoenix Coyotes
Mar 22, 1982
|2013 - Mike Smith||50||2899||20||17||133||2.75||1529||1396||.913||2|
The workhorse of the Phoenix Coyotes has actually played much better recently than his stats indicate. He has only conceded seven goals in his past five games on 155 shots. But his team has only scored nine goals in that same span, which is not enough to consistently get wins.
The St. Louis Blues will be without Vladimir Sobotka (lower body), who is on IR. They may also be without the services of Jordan Leopold (leg), who remains questionable.
Phoenix still has no injuries to report.
Tonight's game at Jobing.com Arena begins at 6 PM Arizona time. You can catch the game on Fox Sports Arizona Plus and on the radio at 92.3 KTAR FM.