The Arizona Coyotes had a stretch of solid games, which unfortunately came to an end Saturday against the San Jose Sharks at home. Losing to the best team in the Pacific Division is understandable though, but the team played flat compared to what we had started to see as the season drew to a close.
View from Anaheim
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before but the Anaheim Ducks are good this season. It remains to be seen if they will continue their four-season streak of finishing atop the Pacific Division, but they are in a solid position to contend for the title if they can overtake the surprising Edmonton Oilers and the San Jose Sharks. Unfortunately for the Ducks, like many teams, their consistent regular season success hasn’t translated to a trip to the Stanley Cup Final the past few years.
The Ducks Cup window may be starting to close in the near future, but they still have a few more years of being a good, competitive team. Ryan Kesler, Ryan Getzlaf, and Corey Perry are all on the wrong side of thirty, but they still have a few more years of being highly effective players in the NHL. The Ducks still have plenty of young players too, John Gibson hasn’t reached his peak as a goaltender yet, Rickard Rakell has back to back twenty goal seasons at only twenty-three years old, and Jakob Silfverberg is three goals away from his second twenty goal season in two years. This could all potentially create a perfect storm for Anaheim, veterans able to lead by example and rookies who can begin to take a more active role in generating offense.
View from Arizona
The Coyotes seem to have comfortably fallen into the role of Spoiler going into the playoffs. Right now the Yotes are not likely to move up or down in the standings, they are currently twelve points ahead of the Colorado Avalanche and nine points behind the Dallas Stars, so why not spend the last stretch going into the playoffs winning games against teams that are higher in the standings and fighting for a Wild Card spot or better seeding. Winning should provide a good example for the younger players, especially the rookies, and hopefully means that the team is finally building the chemistry that they lacked for much of the first half of the season.
It’s tough to find positives in the Yotes 4-1 loss against the Sharks on Saturday, although there were a few combined with some areas of improvement. Saturday’s game was one of the few games this season where the Yotes managed to outshoot their opponents, 37-33, and only two minor penalties in a game does point to a team playing a disciplined game. Unfortunately the Desert Dogs weren’t able to draw any penalties from the Sharks, they allowed a power play goal on one of their penalty kills, they only managed to score one goal and they allowed four. If they can build off the things they have been doing right in February and the few things they did right in their loss they should be able to steal a few more wins from better teams this season.
1. Will the Coyotes rebound? The Coyotes have played better in February, with their lose to the Sharks being the biggest of the month. It’s important for the team’s confidence to have a bounce back win.
2. Can the Coyotes score? The Ducks currently have the third lowest goals against in the Western Conference. Part of this is because the Ducks are consistently a good team, and the other part is because John Gibson is a good goaltender having a good season. The Coyotes are going to need to find a way to generate offense against a team that doesn’t allow for much.
3. Will the Ducks find their own offense? The past three games the Anaheim Ducks have scored one goal in each game. They won two of those games, so that’s not to say they are having a rough stretch, but it could be a sign that the are having difficulties generating offense lately.
Players to Watch
Anaheim – John Gibson. If your team is only going to score a goal a game your goaltender is going to have to be your best player. Gibson has been the best player, allowing only one five on five goal in that three game stretch.
Arizona – Martin Hanzal. Hanzal has been playing extremely well as of late and has five goals on the last five games, being held goalless only in the Yotes game against the Los Angeles Kings. The Coyotes seem likely to trade their big center, and it’s a testament to Hanzal that he is able to play through the uncertainty and generate going into the trade deadline.
For the Ducks, former Coyote Antoine Vermette is currently serving a ten game suspension for abuse of an official, Clayton Stoner is out indefinitely with a lower body injury, and Simon Despres is out long term with a concussion.
Louis Domingue is currently questionable for tonight’s game with a lower body injury, Lawson Crouse is currently on the injured reserve with a lower body injury, and Brad Richardson is still out indefinitely with a broken right leg.
Tonight’s game will be available on Fox Sports Arizona and AZ Sports 98.7.