The Arizona Coyotes aren't known for being quick starters. We are just a few seasons removed from the Coyotes' having one of the worst starts in NHL history when they lost their first eleven games in the 2017-18 season.
If the Coyotes wanted to have any chance with a condensed schedule they were going to need to avoid a weak start.
The Coyotes' first two games were against the San Jose Sharks, and they were largely the better team in both.
In their first game, the Coyotes worked their back from a 3-1 deficit, only to fall in the shootout. The outcome was not ideal, but the Coyotes were the better team for the final two periods.
The second game was a much more complete effort. They were the better team in all three periods and got offense from their best players like Clayton Keller, Phil Kessel, Barrett Hayton, and Jakob Chychrun.
Unfortunately, Saturday's victory also came at a cost.
In the third period, Oliver Ekman-Larsson got tied up with Evander Kane in the Coyotes' end of the ice. OEL ended up awkwardly going into the glass and boards. He didn't immediately get up from the ice, and yesterday fans were informed that he will be placed on the injured reserve list and will not be available for the games against the Golden Knights.
Before getting too excited about the Coyotes' results, it is important to remember that they played the San Jose Sharks.
The Scottsdale Sharks may be the best of the three California teams this season, but they still aren't good compared to the rest of the division.
Vegas was a great team last season and they won the Pacific Division. They may have gotten better during the offseason, losing Paul Stastny, Nate Schmidt, and Deryk Engelland but adding Alex Pietrangelo.
Adding a Stanley Cup-winning All-Star defenseman in Pietrangelo would normally be enough. But Vegas also has one of the best goaltending tandems in Marc-André Fleury and Robin Lehner.
So far both have gotten starts, and both are solid enough that Vegas can keep the starts split pretty evenly between the two. Goaltending is going to be important in the condensed season, and Vegas having two solid choices is going to make them one of the more dangerous teams in the West Division.
Players to Watch
Arizona: Phil Kessel - Kessel had two goals on Saturday and a goal on Thursday. His first season in Arizona was rough, but he is looking better to start the season.
Vegas: Max Pacioretty - Pacioretty has two goals on the season, including the overtime winner in Vegas' game on Saturday. Pacioretty led the Golden Knights in goals last season, with 32 in 71 games.
Arizona: Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Vegas: Jiri Patera (undisclosed)
Tonight's game will be at 8:00 pm Arizona time and will air on NBCSN and the radio broadcast will be on Fox Sports 910 AM.