Saturday was a good night for the Arizona Coyotes. New majority owner Andrew Barroway was introduced to the fans and team while dropping the puck for the ceremonial opening face-off. The power play clicked, Mike Smith played winning hockey and the Coyotes tallied six goals in victory. Now they prepare to take on the St. Louis Blues, a team coming off a dominant victory themselves.
Matchup at a Glance
|Arizona Coyotes||St. Louis Blues|
|Points||34 (6th Pacific)||49 (3rd Central)|
|Goals per game||2.34 (25th)||2.95 (8th)|
|Goals against per game||3.21 (27th)||2.49 (10th)|
|Power play %||21.3 (8th)||24.4 (1st)|
|Penlaty kill %||75.2 (28th)||79.4 (20th)|
|5 on 5 Corsi for||49.3 (20th)||50.9 (17th)|
|PDO||97.6 (28th)||100.5 (t-10th)|
The View From Arizona
Saturday's victory was a good one for the team. New Year's Eve was an ugly showing in Dallas, but the 6-3 win over the Blue Jackets kept the Coyotes plugging along. They have won four out of five games and now have a four game winning streak at Gila River Arena.
One big takeaway from the Columbus game was the speed with which the Yotes played. They controlled the pace of play and were flying all over the ice, especially on the power play. When Arizona is skating, they are a handful for other teams to matchup with. Players like Tobias Rieder, Mikkel Boedker, Lauri Korpikoski, Sam Gagner, Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson can provide mismatches when playing at full speed. The question is, can they sustain that level of play from game to game? So far this season, the answer has been no, but maybe that will change now.
Another positive outcome from the first game of 2015 was the play of Mike Smith. He only stopped 23 of 26 shots faced, another sub-.900 performance, but he got his first win since December 1st. Smitty will likely be in net again tonight, hoping for a better result than the last time he faced the Blues, a 6-1 browbeating back in October.
The View From St. Louis
St. Louis had been trending in the same direction that Arizona found themselves traveling much of December. Before the game in San Jose on Saturday night, the Blues had lost two in a row and six out of seven. Spiraling downward at that rate made the chumhunt that much sweeter in the 7-2 spanking of the Sharks.
The Blues got a big boost from their power play in Northern California. In the previous seven games, the Gateway Gang had gone 4 for 20 (20%) with the advantage, but netted two extra man goals against San Jose. The penalty kill also went an impressive six for six in throttling the Sharks. The Blues have killed 15 of 16 penalties in the last four games.
One reason for Blues fans to be optimistic again is the return of top netminder Brian Elliott. Elliott returned from the IR on New Year's Eve in a 3-2 loss to the Predators and got the win in San Jose. He will once again be patrolling the pipes tonight. He is 4-2 against the Coyotes in his career with an 1.99 gaa and a .928 sv%.
Keys to the Game
- Speed. St. Louis is a heavy, physical team but with players like Dmitrij Jaskin, Alexander Steen and team scoring leader Vladimir Tarasenko, they have the skill to capitalize on lazy play. The Coyotes need to answer that by skating hard all night long.
- Blue Line Specials. The Blues have a pair of defenseman to rival Arizona's own combo of awesome. Kevin Shattenkirk is second on the team with 35 points and Alex Pietrangelo is still as good as they come. The pair that plays best tonight will likely lead their team to victory.
- Goaltending. Mike Smith got some confidence with a win against a team not named Edmonton. Now he needs to build on it. An old fashioned Super Smitty performance would be nice, he hasn't had a shutout since March 4th of 2014.
Sam Gagner netted two big goals for the Yotes on Saturday on the power play, his first special teams goals of the season. Martin Hanzal tied a career high with four points against the Jackets. The big man now has one goal and seven assists in the last five games.
For St. Louis, they have been riding the hot hand of one T.J. Oshie. He struggled to start the year, with only five goals in the Blues' opening 28 games, but he has gotten it going lately. He has five goals in the last three games, including a hat trick in San Jose.
The Coyotes are pretty healthy, with only Chris Summers (upper body) listed on the injury report. He's questionable for tonight.
The Blues are without forward Chris Porter, on the IR with a lower body injury.
Tonight's game starts at 7pm Arizona time and can be seen on Fox Sports Arizona Plus and heard on AZ Sports 98.7 FM.