The Arizona Coyotes needed a win this past Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings. They had just dropped their last two against the Minnesota Wild and seven of their previous eight games, moving them out of a playoff spot.
We have seen this situation before this season. The Coyotes have all the motivation in the world to play well, only to drop the important game against a team they should beat.
But that didn’t happen on Saturday. Instead, the Coyotes had a dominant game against the Kings, shutting them out and getting the 4-0 victory.
Arizona played a dominant game against the Kings, controlling play for most of the game. They limited Los Angeles’ chances with solid defensive and neutral zone play, had a commanding forecheck, and got great goaltending from Darcy Kuemper. They just need to find a way to do it more consistently.
The Coyotes have lost games this season because of poor special teams, and we saw how important they can be on Saturday.
The Kings had two power plays, the first coming midway through the first period and the second coming late in the second. If they had scored on either, it would have been a completely different game.
Even with a strong Coyotes start, if they had given up an early power play goal, we may have seen them lose confidence in their play and collapse. And if the Kings had scored on their second, they would have cut the Coyotes’ lead in half going into the pivotal third period, and who knows what would have happened.
But, not only did the Coyotes kill those penalties, they got some offense of their own on the power play.
In the third, the Coyotes converted on their second power play of the night with a blast from Jakob Chychrun. The third goal of the game remains a big hurdle for the Coyotes, and it was great to see them get it early on in the third. And despite the lead, the Coyotes kept up hard forecheck and smothering style instead of switching to a more defensive style.
Like the Coyotes, the San Jose Sharks have also not had a great month. They are 3-8-1 in April and have lost their last eight straight games.
Most of the losses were expected, the Scottsdale Sharks aren’t a great team, so it makes sense that they are 4-0-1 in five games against the Minnesota Wild and the Vegas Golden Knights. Falling to the Golden Knights in the shootout may even be seen as the best-case scenario for San Jose.
But among those losses are three losses against the Anaheim Ducks, where the Ducks outscored them 13-2, and a loss to the Los Angeles Kings.
Their three wins came against the Kings, so they did do the Desert Dogs a favor by keeping LA down.
It would be easy to underestimate a team like the Sharks going into tonight’s game. They have lost a lot, have struggled to score on the power play, and are struggling offensively. And if things hold, the Coyotes should have another great opportunity to stockpile points as the season comes to an end.
But, the Sharks are going to be desperate to turn things around. They are six points back of the Coyotes, so they aren’t playing for a playoff spot anymore, but they are playing for their jobs, and for pride, and the opportunity to play spoiler.
And those are strong motivations, but if the Coyotes play like they did Saturday, it should be a good game.
Players to Watch
Arizona: Phil Kessel - This season's Kessel is night and day compared to last season. He leads the team in goals (17) and points (37), and has been playing a much more complete game. Kessel knows what it takes to win, and the team is going to be counting on him showing the younger plays how to finish the season strong.
San Jose: Evander Kane - Kane leads the Sharks in goals (18) and points (37) and he can provide a physical presence on the ice. In the first game against the Coyotes this season he had a goal and two assists, but has been held off the scoresheet since then.
Arizona: Antti Raanta (questionable, upper body), Conor Garland (questionable, knee), Tyler Pitlick (lower body), Jordan Gross (lower body)
San Jose: Radim Simek (questionable, upper body), Matt Nieto (lower body)
Tonight's game will be in San Jose and will air at 7:30 pm Arizona time on Bally Sports Arizona Plus and Fox Sports 910 AM.