It’s tough to make out who the Arizona Coyotes exactly are this season. Take Monday’s game against the Ducks. After a first period that has a case for the worst the Yotes have played this season, they promptly scored four unanswered goals in what turned out to feel like a pretty one-sided affair.
The “true Coyotes” are likely somewhere in between those two extremes. Are they the team that gets outshot 16 to 8 in a period, and pushed around by the West-worst Anaheim Ducks? Or are they the kind of team that takes care of business against such opponents, exploding for three goals in a little less than four minutes? Inconsistency has been their calling card, and Monday’s tale is a microcosm of that.
Some of that luster coming out of the St. Louis Blues series has dimmed after a disappointing series against the Kings, and whatever we want to call Monday’s match, which could’ve been confused for a melee at times.
It’s the fourth matchup of the season between these teams. It’s felt like the matchups against the Ducks are always competitive — over the last 3 seasons, the Coyotes are 7-5-0 against the Ducks, with three of those wins coming in either the shootout or overtime.
The solid play of John Gibson is a big factor as to why it always feels tight. Over his career, he’s 8-4-3 with a 2.28 GAA, and a .923 save percentage against the Coyotes. All of those outpace his overall career numbers. Arizona has seen relative success against him this season (1-2-0, 2.37 GAA, .922 save percentage), but Gibson’s still more than capable of stealing these kinds of games.
Special teams are also a trend worth watching. Both teams feature solid penalty-killing units on the season (7th for Anaheim, 8th for Arizona). Less so on the power play side of things. Whereas Arizona’s 20.9% rate lands them roughly league average (16th), Anaheim has struggled with an 8.9% tally, 30th in the league. If some of Monday’s chirpiness carries over (17 penalties, and 46 penalty minutes handed out), we could see a lot of power play time for both sides.
Even with a lot of the season still to go, collecting points in these matchups is critical if the Coyotes are to contend for a playoff spot. It could also go a long way to establishing some winning habits for a team still searching for an identity.
Players to Watch
Arizona: Christian Dvorak - The Coyotes have played three games against the Ducks — and in two of them, Dvorak has scored two goals. Monday’s deuces catapulted him to the team lead in goals — trailing only Dustin Brown and Logan Couture (10) for the West lead in scores (9). With the Short Leash Line cementing itself as one of the top units in the entire league (3rd in moneypuck.com’s “xGoals%” among units with 100 minutes played together), Dvorak being that next engine could go a long way for this team’s offensive potency.
Anaheim: Trevor Zegras - Monday saw the top Ducks prospect make his debut. And while his 13:14 of ice time (8th among ANA forwards) was relatively humble — he also logged 4:37 worth of power play time. While that’s a product of just how many penalties there were in the game, it also speaks to Anaheim coach Dallas Eakins’ willingness to turn to the 19-year-old in search of some offensive spark. He came close to doing just that with a sweet feed to Rickard Rackell.
Arizona: Antti Raanta did skate for Tuesday practice, but is still questionable for the game.
Anaheim: No update for Carter Rowney, after this hit from Chychrun knocked him out of Monday’s game. Hampus Lindholm (questionable, lower body), and Josh Manson (oblique) both skated on Monday, though their availability is still unclear. Sonny Milano (upper body) remains on Injured Reserve.
Puck drops at the Gila River Arena tonight at 7 pm Arizona time. Watch on Fox Sports Arizona Plus, and listen on Fox Sports 910 AM.