When the Arizona Coyotes hosted the Montreal Canadiens after a four-game road trip you could tell they were tired. They were sloppy, passes weren’t connecting, and Montreal was able to gain the zone very quickly to start the game resulting in the fluke first goal. Luckily they seemed to be a lot less tired after two days of rest as they beat the Colorado Avalanche 3-0, giving the Coyotes their first shut out of the season.
There was a lot to like about Arizona’s game against Colorado. Phil Kessel seems to be getting going with an assist on the game-winning goal and a goal of his own late in the first. Conor Garland scored his team-leading 7th goal of the season in what was the highlight of a dreadful second period for the Yotes. The Coyotes were expected to be score by committee this season, and they currently have six players with 3 or more goals on the season.
Special teams were key for the Coyotes on Saturday. The power play would prove to be the game-winner with Christian Dvorak putting home a rebound off Kessel’s shot.
But bigger then that may have been the Coyotes penalty kill. The penalty kill has struggled compared to last season but they were perfect on Saturday. Colorado was on the power play for six minutes during the second period, a big factor in the Avalanche outshooting the Coyotes 17-3. Colorado is missing their biggest offensive threats at this point due to injuries, but the Coyotes were playing with fire in the second period and the penalty kill came up huge.
Don’t look now but the Edmonton Oilers are good. That really shouldn’t be surprising considering they have two of the best players in the NHL in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, but given the Oilers over the years, it absolutely is a shock.
To say that the Oilers’ success this season has relied on McDavid and Draisaitl is a bit of an understatement. The two have played a collective 9 games where they were on the ice for 25 plus minutes which is insane. Fatigue may eventually prove to be a problem, but until then the Oilers are going to be relying heavily on their best players.
The other big story in Edmonton is the reemergence of James Neal. Neal had been a great player for most of his career, but his numbers took a nosedive last season in Calgary where he finished 7-12-19. The Calgary Flames flipped him to Edmonton for Milan Lucic, and so far Neal has 11 goals while Lucic has none. While many people will argue that Neal was never going to be that player in Calgary, he is still looking like a steal for the Oilers.
Central to all of this may be the Oilers’ new head coach Dave Tippett. Tippett managed to pull off some amazing things with the Coyotes during his tenure with the organization, although the team decided to move away from him and almost completely retool the team. It was a bit of a surprise to see Tippett get hired by the Oilers given his connection with the upcoming Seattle expansion team, but considering the Oilers are 10-4-1 to start the season his decision to go back to coaching seems like a good one.
Players to Watch
Arizona: Darcy Kuemper - After posting a shut out win against the Colorado Avalanche, Kuemper may be the most important player in tonight’s game. Edmonton is a highly skilled team with a lot of offensive threats, and goaltending is going to be key.
Edmonton: Leon Draisaitl - With the game-winning overtime goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Draisaitl has 7 goals in his past 5 games.
Arizona: Brad Richardson (upper body), Niklas Hjalmarsson (leg)
Edmonton: Riley Sheahan (questionable, upper body), Josh Archibald (foot), Joakim Nygard (ribs), Adam Larsson (foot)
Tonight’s game in Edmonton will begin at 7:00 pm Arizona time and will air on ESPN+, Fox Sports Arizona Plus, and Fox Sports 910.