Tonight the Arizona Coyotes face the Philadelphia Flyers to kick off the second half of the season. Both teams will be well rested because they had the last couple of days off due to the all-star break. The Coyotes had success against Philly back in December when they beat them 4-2. 1st time all star Oliver Ekman-Larsson had a very good weekend as he scored two goals during the skills competition and finished the all-star game with one assist.
Arizona who are losers of six straight games are looking to kick off the second half of the season with a bang! Unfortunately they will be without leading scorer Mikkel Boedker who ruptured his spleen in a game against Winnipeg and had to have emergency surgery to get it removed. As a team already starved for offense losing Boedker will be a serious blow to the Coyotes offense and just further lengthen the list of problems this team has going on for them. As Tippett pretty much stated in his post game press conference after the 6-1 drubbing against the Hawks there will be growing pains with the “kids” on defense. Once a strength the D has been a sever weakness for the Coyotes this year. From the first line to the third, there have been many times where players have made countless game costing mistakes. The team still likes a big hard nosed, crease clearing D-man, which is something I think they seriously need. Another serious problem for the Coyotes is the goal tending. Despite posting better numbers in almost every category the Coyotes traded Devan Dubnyk a few weeks ago to Minnesota, which further solidified Mike Smith as the teams number one goalie. Smith, who is in the middle of the worst season of his career, is 7-20-3 with a 3.51 GAA. He has also allowed 19 goals in his last 5 games. Smith would like to forget his nightmare of a first half and have a strong finish to the season.
Strong finishes to a season have been a common reoccurrence in Mike Smiths career. Going back to 2010-11, which was his last season with Tampa Bay, Smith has played eighty-one games post all-star break. In those eighty-one games he has posted a record of 45-22-10 and has allowed 176 goals in those games. Which is good enough for a 2.17 GAA. As the stats have shown Mike Smith is a great second half goalie and excluding this season he has kept the Coyotes in playoff contention right until the last week of the season. He is the man you want in the net when your team is trailing the last playoff spot by only a few points. But unfortunately Smith’s slow start may prolong throughout the entire season. He has looked like a completely different goalie for most of the season but there have been times where he has looked like the Smith of the Past. Here to Smith re-igniting the flame that he once played with.
Speaking of Disappointing seasons the Flyers are in the midst of one right now. After making it to the playoffs last year there were high hopes for the Flyers this year but due to a slow start they have been chasing .500 all season long. The offense has been everything but a problem for Philly. They are led by the two headed monster of Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux. Voracek leads the entire league in Points and assists, while Giroux is 5th in points and 3rd in assists. Much like the Coyotes goaltending has been a problem for Philly as well. Steve Mason has battled injuries all year and only has 8 wins on the season and backup Ray Emery has nowhere near replicated his success with Chicago and has a 3.27 GAA for the year.
Tonight’s game should be well contested as the teams have alternated wins the last couple of games. Due to the loss of Boedker and the mediocre play in the net the Coyotes will need to play their absolute best. The Defense will have to play tight and can’t afford to make mistakes, someone on Offense needs to step up and earn their paycheck tonight. If the Coyotes can jump out to an early lead and not take their foot off the gas they will be a happy bunch heading to Ottawa
Claude Giroux – The Flyers Captain has three points in his last three games. He has been productive as ever with sixteen goals and thirty-five assists
Jakub Voracek – Not only does the Flyers winger lead the league in points with fifty six he tied the All-Star game record for most points the game. He had three goals and three assists.
Keith Yandle – One of the most offensively gifted D-man in the west is on a four game point streak and looks to extend that tonight.
Whose Not –
Mikkel Boedker – For the last week Boedker was on fire, he had a four game goal streak and had six points in his last six games but that flame was extinguished when he ruptured his spleen in his game against Winnipeg he will be out 4-6 weeks
Martin Erat – Erats poor season continues to drag on. He is only averaging one shot on net per game and only has nineteen points in forty four games. He has also been a healthy scratch in two straight games. Hopefully being scratched can have the same effect on him as it had on Gagner
Zac Rinaldo – As the old saying goes “ You can’t fix stupid” The Flyers “goon” was just suspended 8 games for his boarding and charging on Penguins D-man Kris Letang. It was the third suspension of his career and his first since a 4 game suspension last season.