The 2015-16 season for the Coyotes begins with a road tilt in Los Angeles as the first part of a back-to-back. There are so many different storylines to follow going into this year, so let's take a moment to untangle some of what could be a very fascinating Coyotes season.
Matchup at a Glance
|2014-15 Stats||Arizona Coyotes||Los Angeles Kings|
|Points||56 (7th Pacific)||95 (4th Pacific)|
|Goals For||2.01 (29th)||2.66 (18th)|
|Goals Against||3.26 (28th)||2.40 (4th)|
|Power Play||20.0% (7th)||19.0% (T-11th)|
|Penalty Kill||76.7% (T-28th)||80.9% (T-16th)|
|5v5 Corsi For||48.7% (22nd)||55.4% (1st)|
|PDO||97.1 (29th)||99.7 (21st)|
View from Arizona
Change has been the word of the offseason for the Arizona Coyotes. Arizona finally committed to its young prospects, with Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, Tobias Rieder, and Jordan Martinook all making the opening night roster.
Yet even with the push for more youth, the Coyotes also did not go overboard. They made the smart choice to send Dylan Strome back to the OHL for another year, and also opted to give Brendan Perlini and Christian Dvorak another year of seasoning.
As a result, very little is expected of this team. There aren't many established weapons in the Coyotes roster, with Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Mikkel Boedker as the two most imposing scorers. It may very well be another season with wins few and far between. But the Coyotes have embraced a rebuild, and appear to have a plan.
View from Los Angeles
The Kings found themselves in an unusual position at the end of last season: out of the playoffs. After two Stanley Cups and a Western Conference Final berth from 2012-2014, the Kings just missed the cut to get into the postseason last year, despite posting the best Corsi For Percentage at even-strength in the league last year.
Last year, the Kings' major liability turned out to be 2012 Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick, who posted an average year with a 36-22-13 record, a .918 save percentage and a 2.24 GAA. While decent, those numbers were not especially elite.
Quick's 2015-16 debut was not exactly encouraging either. He gave up five goals on 32 shots in a 5-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks Wednesday night. He will have to be better if the Kings want to make the playoffs again.
But overall, the team's roster is more or less intact. The Kings lost Martin Jones to San Jose (via Boston), Justin Williams to Washington, Andrej Sekera to Edmonton, and Slava Voynov to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They added Christian Ehrhoff and Milan Lucic to complement their forwards, so their roster should once again be defensively stingy and very physical.
Keys to the Game
- Find Lines that Work - Max Domi, Anthony Duclair and Jordan Martinook, are all exciting young players, but they're going to need time to get acclimated to the NHL. The Coyotes need to find the right personnel to help them along.
- Stay Aggressive on the Power Play - Arizona's power play was in the top ten in the NHL last year, and converted at a 20% clip last season. Though assist extraordinaire Keith Yandle is now in New York, the Coyotes need to use their talent on the man advantage.
- Give Mike Smith Some Confidence - Smith found a sports psychologist last summer to try and rediscover his game. The Coyotes could expedite his recovery by giving him easy looks at the puck.
Players to Watch
Someone has to score for Arizona. Look out for the Max Domi - Antoine Vermette - Mikkel Boedker line; this is the one the Coyotes hope produces the most for them this season.
How will Milan Lucic fare in his new home? The Kings play a similar game to him, and there's a lot of offensive support around him in the form of players like Jeff Carter, Marian Gaborik, and Tyler Toffoli. Lucic may not have to do as much as he did in Boston, but he seems to have found his niche quite nicely.
The Arizona Coyotes are ostensibly skating with a clean roster, though John Scott going on waivers raises the possibility that someone is dealing with a nagging injury.
The Kings will be without Dwight King for an indeterminate period of time, as he is on injured reserve with a lower body injury.
Tonight's game begins at 7:30 PM Arizona time. You can catch the game on Fox Sports Arizona, or listen to it on ESPN 620 AM.