NHL: Coyotes @ Blues Preview
After last night’s trashing by the Winnipeg Jets, Coyotes fans must be dreading tonight’s opponent the St. Louis Blues. But is it all doom and gloom?
The Coyotes lost 5-1 last night against a Jets team that had lost five straight games. Call it the new coach syndrome, but the Jets players definitely wanted to show new head coach Paul Maurice that they wanted a spot on his team.
So, if Phoenix can’t beat the Jets, how are they going to get anything out of tonight’s game against a rested Blues team that is one of the strongest sides in the Western Conference?
Keep it simple. This must be the message from coach Tippett in the Coyotes locker room. Don’t over think the plays and just park the bus. it’s squeaky bum time from now until the end of the regular season and the Coyotes need to find their way back to “hockey the hard way.” Get any points you can and it doesn’t matter if it’s not entertaining or pretty, what matters is the points in the standings.
The last couple of games have been just awful for the Coyotes and captain Shane Doan called out the team and told media that everyone in the locker room needs to take responsibility and step up their game. With the exception of Oliver Ekman-Larsson who had the lone Coyotes goal last night, no other player on the team even had a decent game.
St. Louis will be without their leading scorer, Swedish Olympian Alexander Steen. Steen has been red hot this season, scoring an impressive 24 goal in 35 games. But the Blues still have plenty of firepower in Chris Stewart (15 G), Vladimir Tarasenko (15), Jaden Schwartz (15G) and David Backes (17G). Add the offensive skill of defencemen Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo (both have 32p) and you can easily see why the Blues are currently in the third spot in the Western Conference.
Radim Vrbata leads the Coyotes in scoring with 34p (11G 23A) in 43 games, but the Czech Olympic reject hasn’t scored a goal in eight games. Mikkel Boedker leads the Yotes in goalscoring with a tally of 14. On the back end, Keith Yandle has racked up 28p (6G 22A) and Oliver Ekman-Larsson 24p (5G 19A).
The Blues have been blessed with two outstanding keepers. Brian Elliot has a 1.86 GAA and a SV% .925 and Jaroslav Halak who started the season as the number one choice has a 2.31 GAA and a SV% .911 and he will be in net for the Blues tonight. The Coyotes have had some issues in net and starter Mike Smith has a 2.95 GAA and a SV% .909 and his German colleague Thomas Greiss has the better number with a 2.21 GAA and a SV% .929. Greiss’ number looks decent but he’s only played in 12 games, including eight as a starter. Smith will get the start for the Coyotes. So with Halak and Smith in net, the edge goes to the Blues.
Keys to the game for the Coyotes:
Focus – Divide each period into 5 minute segments and focus on winning those segments. When you’re in a rut like the Coyotes are, setting small goals within the game is the way to go in order to get confidence back and keeping morale up.
Stay out of the penalty box – The Coyotes took 12 penalties in the games against the Jets, four of them in the first period. When you take that many penalties you don’t get into the rhythm of the game and some guys will be sitting on the bench for long stretches of time as you wear out your PK units.
Help out the goaltender – No matter if it’s Smith or Greiss in net tonight, the Coyotes skaters need to do a better job of blocking shots, keeping the crease clear and help out clearing away rebounds. If they do this, then the Coyotes at least have a chance of snagging a point in this game. What the goalie lacks in confidence or ability the rest of the team must compensate with hard work and grit.
Coyotes @ Blues 6p.m. MST TV: Fox Sports Arizona
Radio: FM 98.7