Two straight 5-2 losses have left the Arizona Coyotes in a funk. The defense has not been particularly sharp, and the goaltending remains a concern.
The Coyotes don't get much of a reprieve tonight, as they take on the Atlantic Division leading Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre.
Matchup at a Glance
|Arizona Coyotes||Montreal Canadiens|
|Points||19 (4th Pacific)||30 (1st Atlantic)|
|Goals For||2.78 (T-11th)||3.53 (2nd)|
|Goals Against||3.00 (T-24th)||2.16 (3rd)|
|Power Play||12.5% (30th)||23.9% (4th)|
|Penalty Kill||80.9% (13th)||86.4% (T-3rd)|
|5v5 Corsi For||47.9% (25th)||52.0% (9th)|
|PDO||101.0 (T-8th)||102.0 (5th)|
View from Arizona
The curse of the slow start continued through the first two games of this four game road trip, as the Coyotes gave up the first two goals of the game in each contest.
Arizona was able to level the score against Columbus, and came within striking distance against the Islanders, but the final results show how hard it is to get out of an early deficit. It's really a testament to the play of players like Max Domi, Mikkel Boedker, Anthony Duclair, and Martin Hanzal that the Coyotes have managed to even claw back in these games at all.
How does Arizona play better? It starts with the defense. 10 goals in two games is practically impossible for any offense to overcome. Younger defensemen like Connor Murphy, Stefan Elliott, and Klas Dahlbeck desperately need to pick up their games in their own end if Arizona is going to start winning again.
View from Montreal
For the Habs' perspective, be sure to visit Eyes On The Prize.
The early season award for most complete team in the NHL has to go to the Montreal Canadiens. The biggest change from years past is that Montreal's offense is scoring in bunches; six players have 15 points or more for the Canadiens so far this year. Montreal's defensive acumen combined with an outstanding looking offense makes the Habs a definite threat in the Eastern Conference.
But not only are the Canadiens giving goaltender Carey Price more offensive help, they're winning in his absence altogether. Mike Condon is 7-1-2 with a 2.14 GAA and a .918 save percentage. Montreal in years past has needed Price to carry them deep into the postseason. 19 games in, that's not the case.
Keys to the Game
- Speed for Speed - Montreal's forwards are young and fast. Arizona's are too. The Coyotes need to keep up with Montreal's pace, or find ways to slow them down.
- Be Opportunistic - Montreal does pretty much everything well. That means Arizona needs to exploit the moments in the game where they make mistakes.
- Start Stronger - If the Coyotes can get out of the first period in a scoreless draw, that's a win. If they can get out with a lead, even better. Either way, they can't afford to continue chasing games.
Players to Watch
If you are a fan of stud defensemen, this is the game to watch tonight. Oliver Ekman-Larsson is in the middle of a six game point streak, and has points in 11 of his last 14 games.
Meanwhile, PK Subban on the opposite end of the ice has five assists in his last five games. While he's only scored once this year, he's no stranger to lighting the lamp.
The Coyotes will be without Nicklas Grossmann and Joe Vitale, who both remain on IR. Steve Downie is considered questionable for tonight.
Montreal, in addition to missing Carey Price, will not have Alexei Emelin. Zack Kassian has not played this season after he was sent to the NHL's substance abuse program in early-October.
Tonight's game begins at 5:30 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona or listen on ESPN 620 AM.