The Arizona Coyotes fall further and further behind in the Western Conference playoff picture after a tough 3-2 loss to the league leading Washington Capitals on Monday night. The games do not get much easier however, as the Coyotes have to play a surging Tampa Bay Lightning team tonight in the second of back-to-back games on the road.
Matchup at a Glance
|Arizona Coyotes||Tampa Bay Lightning|
|Points||60 (4th Pacific)||70 (2nd Atlantic)|
|Goals For||2.76 (9th)||2.71 (11th)|
|Goals Against||3.09 (30th)||2.46 (8th)|
|Power Play||19.4% (12th)||17.6% (T-21st)|
|Penalty Kill||77.8% (28th)||82.7% (10th)|
|5v5 Corsi For||46.7% (28th)||52.2% (7th)|
|PDO||100.8% (T-5th)||100.5 (11th)|
View from Arizona
Despite a loss in regulation, there aren't many areas of the Coyotes' game to fault last night. The power play should receive a fair amount of criticism for being unable to convert in key moments, but overall the Coyotes didn't play that poorly against the Capitals.
The sense of urgency Arizona was undoubtedly feeling when they left Glendale should be heightened in Tampa Bay. Arizona is six points behind Colorado, seven points behind Nashville, and nine points behind San Jose for the two Wild Card spots and the third Pacific Division playoff spot, respectively. That's a lot of ground to make up, without very many head-to-head opportunities left.
Will Louis Domingue play again tonight? He was very good against the Caps, but his postgame comments about the officiating suggest a fair amount of frustration on his part. There has to be a worry that the pressure of an NHL playoff push is wearing on the young rookie. Unfortunately for the Coyotes, their only other option is Niklas Treutle, so it may be Domingue in net yet again for the Coyotes.
View from Tampa Bay
For more on the Tampa Bay Lightning, check out Raw Charge
We're it not for the Florida Panthers' surprising start to the season, Tampa Bay would likely be receiving a lot more appreciation in the Eastern Conference. But as the year has progressed, the Lightning have consistently made their way up the stat sheet and up the standings.
Perhaps the lack of hype can be attributed to the less than stellar follow-up campaigns of the three young rookies who took the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs by storm. Both Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat are still trying to crack the double-digit goal mark this season. Both have missed significant time due to injuries, but it's fair to say their production this season has been disappointing after the excitement the league saw last summer.
The one exception is Nikita Kucherov, who is the team leader in points and is just one goal behind Lightning forward extraordinaire Steven Stamkos for the team lead. By the time this road trip is over, the Coyotes will almost certainly have seen their fill of Russian superstars.
Keys to the Game
1. Give Domingue an early confidence boost: Domingue is not the first goaltender to complain about uneven officiating, and he won't be the last. Still, Arizona could get him going with some strong forechecking early on.
2. Give Treutle less to do: In the event Domingue does not play, then the Coyotes need to do an excellent job of not giving up odd man rushes, getting in shooting lanes, and generally keeping the puck away from Truetle.
3. Feed the skill players on the power play: The power play runs through Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Michael Stone. Arizona needs to let them quarterback it.
Players to Watch
All eyes are on Mikkel Boedker, who is one of the most intriguing forwards available on the trade market outside of Andrew Ladd. He hasn't scored since February 4th, but when he does start to score, he scores a lot.
After a bumpy beginning to the season, Lightning goalie Ben Bishop has settled in. He's 23-17-3 this season with a .923 save percentage and two shutouts. Even when the offense goes cold, Bishop gives the Lightning a nice cushion.
Arizona is without Anders Lindback and Joe Vitale for the duration of the season. Boyd Gordon is traveling with the team but was wearing a no-contract jersey in practice, so his return seems a little ways away.
Jason Garrison is not expected back until March, while the aforementioned Nikita Kucherov is considered questionable for tonight's game.
Tonight's game gets underway at 5:30 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona or listen on ESPN Phoenix 620 AM.