With two exceptional performances in a row, the Arizona Coyotes are riding high. One more test remains before the Coyotes begin a five game excursion to the East Coast: a home game against the St. Louis Blues tonight at Gila River Arena.
Matchup at a Glance
|St. Louis Blues||Arizona Coyotes|
|Points||77 (3rd Central)||60 (4th Pacific)|
|Goals For||2.40 (T-25th)||2.74 (T-9th)|
|Goals Against||2.27 (2nd)||3.04 (T-27th)|
|Power Play||20.3% (8th)||19.5% (T-12th)|
|Penalty Kill||87.0% (1st)||77.9% (T-26th)|
|5v5 Corsi For||50.7% (T-13th)||46.8% (28th)|
|PDO||100.4 (11th)||100.8 (4th)|
View from St. Louis
For the latest on the St. Louis Blues, check out St. Louis Game Time
This seems to get said every season, but boy do the Blues look good on paper.
They have the second best scoring defense in the league and the league's best penalty kill. Their power play is a top ten unit. St. Louis core group of veterans - Alexander Steen, David Backes, and Alex Pietrangelo - is still solid, as are youngsters Robby Fabbri, Colton Parayko, and of course, Vladimir Tarasenko.
And yet, the Blues have not escaped the first round for three consecutive years, and have not even been to a Conference Final since 2001. Part of the reason has been bad luck; a quality St. Louis team in 2011-12 had the misfortune of drawing the Los Angeles Kings in the second round. But part of it seems to be structural at this point: there has always been some obstacle separating the Blues from the elite teams of the NHL.
This year, that obstacle appears to be offense. Tarasenko and Steen have accounted for 43 of the team's 144 goals, or just slightly under 30% of St. Louis' scoring. By contrast, Arizona's top two scorers - Shane Doan and Oliver Ekman-Larsson - have combined for 38 of Arizona's 156 goals, or under 25%.
So it's not surprising that St. Louis may be hunting for offensive help. For a team like the Coyotes, which have a streaky yet deadly goal scorer on the wing in Mikkel Boedker who may be on the block, St. Louis' strong defensive depth may bring the two sides together for the second year in a row, following Arizona's trade of Zbynek Michalek for Maxim Letunov last season.
View from Arizona
While San Jose is now seven points ahead of the Coyotes for 3rd place in the Pacific Division, Arizona is just four points behind Colorado for the second Wild Card spot in the West. After a brutal start to the year, it's no longer out of the realm of possibility that four teams emerge from the Pacific.
Arizona's problems are diametrically opposed to the issues in St. Louis. Arizona can score in bunches, but their defense is porous and their special teams continue to struggle to keep the puck out of their own net.
The next eight games for Arizona are pivotal, as all will come against teams Arizona really isn't competing against for playoff position. Arizona needs to bank as many points as possible over the next two weeks heading into head-to-head matchups that will really matter.
Keys to the Game
1. Fewer Minors - Part of the reason Arizona did so well against Montreal and Arizona is that they were only shorthanded five times over the last two games. They need to continue that trend.
2. Control the Blue Lines - Arizona needs to both block clean zone entries into their end and hold the puck in the offensive end. The less time the Coyotes are actually defending, the better.
3. Get Points - The Blues are 17 points ahead of Arizona and 13 points ahead of Nashville and Colorado in the Central. It's not pivotal that Arizona wins in regulation, which means the Coyotes win this meeting if they come away with any points at all.
Players to Watch
With three assists in the past four games, Paul Stastny has been churning out helpers all year. With only six goals however, he hasn't quite been the offensive panacea St. Louis was hoping for.
With two goals and two assists in the last two games, Max Domi is doing his best to remind Calder Trophy voters that he's still been an important part of the offense.
St. Louis has Steve Ott, Jake Allen, and Alex Pietrangelo on injured reserve until at least the end of the month, but are otherwise healthy.
Anders Lindback and Joe Vitale are both done for the season. Mike Smith and Boyd Gordon are both expected to join the team on their next road trip, but neither are ready to return quite yet.
Tonight's game begins at 7 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona or listen on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.