With less than ten games less in the regular season, the Arizona Coyotes welcome the Philadelphia Flyers to the desert as the Flyers are caught in the middle of a battle for the last Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Matchup at a Glance
|Philadelphia Flyers||Arizona Coyotes|
|Points||85 (5th Metropolitan)||73 (4th Pacific)|
|Goals For||2.60 (18th)||2.62 (17th)|
|Goals Against||2.56 (14th)||2.96 (27th)|
|Power Play||18.1% (17th)||18.2% (16th)|
|Penalty Kill||81.9% (19th)||78.3% (T-25th)|
|5v5 Corsi For||50.1% (16th)||47.1% (28th)|
|PDO||100.8 (T-5th)||100.3 (T-12th)|
View from Philadelphia
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On November 12th, 2015, the Flyers were 5-8-3 and bore no resemblance to a playoff team. Their next game marked the debut of defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere. Since then, Philadelphia has gone 31-16-10 and is now tied with the Detroit Red Wings - but with a game in hand - for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference,
Gostisbehere has been a revelation all season long, and has broken into a Calder Trophy race that has been dominated by Artemi Panarin, Dylan Larkin, and Jack Eichel. And assuming Gostisbehere plays all of Philadelphia's remaining games, he will finish with 62 under his belt, more than enough to warrant serious consideration for the award.
But as good as Gostisbehere has been, Philadelphia has also finally solved the systemic problem of inferior goaltending. Michal Neuvirth has a .925 save percentage in 31 appearances, while Steve Mason has a .918 save percentage in 46 appearances. In past years, Philadelphia won in spite of their goaltending. Now, they're winning because of it.
View from Arizona
Speaking of winning because of goaltending, who about Mike Smith and Louis Domingue in the month of March? The two have combined to give up just 15 goals on 340 shots. Were it not for a brutal 3-10-1 month in Feburary, the Coyotes would likely still be within sniffing distance of the Western Conference Wild Card race.
As the Coyotes continue to approach the end of the regular season, the speculation of what Arizona might do to acquire Auston Matthews in the 2016 Draft is rising. One report from ESPN suggested Oliver Ekman-Larsson might be a movable piece. Arizona has gotten to see what its power play looks like without OEL, and it does not look good.
What has looked good recently is the play of Martin Hanzal. With three goals and an assist in his last two games, Hanzal is trying to finish the season strong after a white-hot start and a frustrating middle. He will be a fascinating player to watch as he enters the last season of his contract next year.
Keys to the Game
1. Keep Getting Power Plays - As aggravating as Arizona's recent power play woes have been, they have given Arizona a significant amount of time in the offensive zone, which means less time on defense. The more they can win the penalty differential, the easier their job will be at even-strength.
2. Shayne Gostisbesomewhere Else - Gostisbehere is a dynamic offensive-defenseman. If the Arizona Coyotes can keep him everywhere but in open space, they'll have a better shot at reducing the damage he can deal out.
3. Spoiler Alert - Arizona does not need this win. Philadelphia does. The longer they can lead or keep the game tied, the more desperate Philadelphia is going to be, which means the sloppier they are going to be too.
Players to Watch
Despite the nightmarish season Sean Couturier is having, he does have five assists in his last five games. The end of the year cannot come fast enough for the 23 year old Phoenix native.
Max Domi has a goal and two assists in his last five games, but also has 15 shots in that stretch. Arizona needs players who are unafraid to put the puck on net.
Michael Del Zotto is done for the rest of the regular season with wrist ligament surgery, but the bigger loss for Philadelphia is hot goaltender Michal Neuvirth, who will not return until the regular season is over.
Arizona will not have Joe Vitale and Anders Lindback for the rest of this season due to injury, while they won't have Jarred Tinordi due to suspension. Former Flyer Nicklas Grossmann is considered questionable for tonight's game.
Tonight's game begins at 7 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona Plus or listen on ESPN 620 AM.