The Arizona Coyotes have been inconsistent this season. They have lost games that they should have won, and won games they probably should have lost. But in the final game of 2019, against the defending Stanley Cup Champions the St. Louis Blues, they came up big with a 3-1 win.
Arizona’s power play came to play on Tuesday. Two of the Coyotes’ three goals came on the power play, with both Conor Garland and Nick Schmaltz getting goals on the man advantage. Garland’s came just over eight minutes into the first period to start the scoring, while Schmaltz got his with less than a minute left in the period to guarantee the Coyotes’ win.
Equally important was Arizona’s penalty kill, which killed all four of the Blues’ power plays. At one point the Blues had a 5 on 3 opportunity for 1:48 in the second period when the game was tied and the Coyotes were able to keep St. Louis from scoring. The Blues power play is ranked seventh in the league and Arizona was able to keep the Blues from scoring on the man advantage is very impressive.
With the Coyotes win they are in sole possession of the number two spot in the Pacific Division. The Vegas Golden Knights have two more points and have played in one more game and have the same number of wins as the Coyotes. Arizona can’t afford to rest though, the Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers are both just two points behind the Yotes with Vancouver having played two fewer games.
For a long time, the California teams were consistently the top teams in the Pacific Division. They are currently the three worst teams in the division, with the Anaheim Ducks ranked seventh. They have as many points as the San Jose Sharks, but they have played in one fewer games.
Like the Coyotes, the Ducks also played on the final day of the year. They lost 5-2 to the Golden Knights, although the prior week they beat the Golden Knights 4-3.
What little success the Ducks have been getting can largely be attributed to starting goaltender John Gibson. Gibson has started 30 of the Ducks 40 games and he has a 2.89 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage. A .908 save percentage isn’t the best number in the league, but given the team in front of him, it is very impressive.
Players to Watch
Arizona: Phil Kessel - Kessel scored the game-winning goal against the Blues when he registered his ninth in the third period. The Coyotes are going to need more from Kessel in the second half of the season and he will hopefully get going offensively.
Anaheim: Jakob Silfverberg - Silfverberg had his 14th goal of the season against the Golden Knights and he currently leads the teams in both goals and points. He has been held pointless against the Coyotes in their prior two meetings.
Arizona: Darcy Kuemper (lower body), Niklas Hjalmarsson (leg)
Anaheim: Rickard Rakell (questionable, upper body), Derek Grant (shoulder), Troy Terry (knee), Nick Ritchie (knee), Ryan Kesler (hip), Patrick Eaves (illness)
Tonight’s game in Arizona will start at 7:00 pm Arizona time and will air on Fox Sports Arizona and Fox Sports 910 AM.