Don’t look now, but the Arizona Coyotes are still undefeated in the month of March. Of course, they have only played twice, but the Coyotes don’t have a lot of win streaks this season, so you have to celebrate the small victories.
Arizona kept the streak going with one of the most thrilling games in years. It was a rollercoaster of a game that saw the Coyotes go up 4-0, give up five unanswered goals, and then score another four to walk away with an 8-5 win.
It was a massive night for one player more than the others, Nick Schmaltz. The Coyotes’ top-line winger had two goals and five assists, setting a franchise record for most points in a single game. It was the most points from an NHL player in a game since Sam Gagner had an eight-point night with the Edmonton Oilers on February 12, 2012.
The Coyotes probably aren’t going to have another eight-goal game tonight, but the Coyotes’ play has improved as the season has gone on. Arizona is getting more consistent offense and, probably not coincidentally, taking few penalties. Less time in the box means more time on the ice scoring goals.
Tonight will be the second time the Coyotes have faced off against the Detroit Red Wings this season. The Desert Dogs won the first matchup 2-1 in overtime on November 20, but a lot has happened since then.
The Eastern Conference is starting to set, and it looks unlikely that the Red Wings will make it into the post-season. There is still a lot of hockey left to be played, but Detroit is 15 points behind the Washington Capitals for the final Wild Card spot and 22 points behind the Toronto Maples for the third spot in the Atlantic Division.
The Red Wings had a fairly light February, only playing in seven games over the entire month. However, they have already played three games during March and are 1-2-0, with a 4-3 overtime win over the Carolina Hurricanes as their lone victory.
Detroit’s biggest problem this season has been their goaltending. Alex Nedeljkovic is playing with the Red Wings for the first time, and in 40 games played, he has 36 starts, a 3.08 goals-against average, and a .905 save percentage.
Things are much better with their backup, former-Coyote Thomas Greiss. Greiss is playing in his second season with the Red Wings and has a 3.55 goals-against average, and a .891 save percentage, making this one of his worst seasons in the NHL.
Both teams are close on special teams because the Red Wings are not great this year. They aren’t as bad as the Coyotes, but everyone expected them to be at the bottom of the barrel.
Detroit’s power play is 27th in the league, finding the back of the net with the man-advantage only 16.5% of the time. Yet, somehow, their penalty kill is worse. Ranked 30th in the NHL, they are ahead of only the Coyotes and the Vancouver Canucks.
The Coyotes have played two good games, and on the surface, this looks like an excellent opportunity for the Yotes to extend their win streak to three. But even though the Red Wings aren’t the best competition, the Coyotes do not give them an inch tonight. If the Desert Dogs keep up the pressure, they can walk away with a three-game win streak and a season sweep of the Detroit Red Wings, and who doesn’t want that?
Players to Watch
Arizona: Nick Schmaltz - Even before his seven-point night, Schmaltz has been excellent lately. He had a goal against the Colorado Avalanche and was 6-4-10 in the month of February.
Detroit: Robby Fabbri - Fabbri had a goal in the Red Wings’ last two games, and with 16 goals in 54 games, he is on pace to hit 20 goals for the first time in his career.
Arizona: Liam O’Brien (upper body), Andrew Ladd (lower body), Johan Larsson (hernia), Jay Beagle (lower body), Dmitrij Jaškin (lower body), Conor Timmins (knee)
Detroit: Carter Rowney (lower body), Mitchell Stephens (lower body), Jakub Vrana (probable, shoulder)
Tonight’s game will be slightly earlier, with a 5:30 pm Arizona start time. It will air on ESPN+, Hulu, and 620 AM.