The Arizona Coyotes are off to the East Coast for the rest of this week. When they hit the ice tonight for their game against the Boston Bruins,
View from Arizona
By far the biggest shoe dropped on Sunday for the Coyotes as they packaged Martin Hanzal and Ryan White in a pre-Trade Deadline move that sent three picks and a prospect back Arizona’s way, followed up the next day by a move to acquire Wild forward Teemu Pulkkinen (who is with the team in Boston) in exchange for future considerations that might as well have been a part of the original trade.
With Hanzal, White, and Michael Stone now gone, the Coyotes only have a few trade options remaining. Radim Vrbata is the most popular candidate given his stellar year, but it’s well known at this point that Vrbata is simply a different player in Arizona than he is anywhere else. Shane Doan rumors do not die, especially given his reaction to the Hanzal trade on Sunday, but there is little indication he or the Coyotes are actually interested in moving him.
Unless someone on a down year like Jamie McGinn or Anthony Duclair gets dealt, the Coyotes might stand pat and re-assess over the summer. And if the Coyotes can turn in more performances like Sunday night’s come-from-behind thriller against the Buffalo Sabres, then perhaps the Coyotes can settle in as Western Conference spoilers for the remainder of the season.
View from Boston
For more on the Boston Bruins, check out Stanley Cup of Chowder
Interestingly, if Radim Vrbata were to depart, the Bruins might be a strong candidate to land him. Unlike other possible buyers at the Deadline, the Bruins have a bit of cap room to work with, and at 17th in the league in goals per game, they could use more scoring in what is a fierce Eastern Conference playoff battle.
Right now the Bruins are in third place in the Atlantic Division, but Toronto is nipping at their heels, sitting just one point back in the second Wild Card spot with a game in hand. That is absolutely crucial, because the second Wild Card finisher is likely to draw a supercharged Washington Capitals team in the first round. No playoff team is a pushover, but given a choice between the Capitals and the Ottawa Senators, the Senators seem like the more favorable matchup.
Tuukka Rask has not been his usual self this year, which may be due to both his heavy workload (he’s played 49 of Boston’s 62 games this year) and a less impressive defense in front of him. But when he’s on, he can steal a series away. And the Bruins are second in the league in 5v5 CF% at 55.0. Obviously good underlying stats are no guarantee, but the Bruins could be sneaky good down the stretch and in the playoffs, especially if they are savvy at the Trade Deadline.
- Are the Coyotes done dealing? - Arizona’s biggest moves are already completed, but there’s still plenty of time in what is still a seller’s market. Between publication of this preview and puck drop tonight, will anything else change?
- Who will take over down the middle? - The Coyotes did a good job exploiting the middle of the ice against Buffalo, but not having Martin Hanzal’s big body will be a difficult challenge to overcome. Can anybody else be a big net-front presence tonight?
- Can the Coyotes get to Rask early? - Arizona got off to a slow start against the Sabres before coming back. Given Rask’s up and down year, can the Coyotes be more aggressive earlier tonight?
Players to Watch
Arizona - Radim Vrbata - Vrbata has 15 goals and 31 assists this season, and has 11 points in his last nine games. With as many points as Ryan Getzlaf, Jonathan Toews, and Filip Forsberg this season, Vrbata has been sneaky good.
Boston - Brad Marchand - Who had Brad Marchand as Boston’s points leader this season? He’s already set career highs in assists (37) and points (64) this year in 15-20 fewer games. And with seven points in his last five games, he’s still hot.
Alexander Burmistrov is still considered questionable after missing Sunday night’s game, while Brad Richardson has resumed skating after breaking both his tibia and fibula back in November.
Boston has no injuries to report.
Tonight’s game begins at 5 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona Plus or Fox Sports Go, and listen on ESPN Phoenix 620 AM.