Minnesota Wild (51-21-7) 109pts 2nd in the Central
3.73 Goals For Per Game (5th in the NHL)
3.05 Goals Against Per Game (17th in the NHL)
20.8% Power Play (16th in the NHL)
75.4% Penalty Kill (27th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #97 Kirill Kaprizov ~ 45G 58A = 103pts
2. #22 Kevin Fiala ~ 33G 51A = 84pts
3. #38 Ryan Hartman ~ 33G 29A = 62pts
4. #14 Joel Eriksson Ek ~ 25G 22A = 47pts
5. #89 Frederick Gaudreau ~ 13G 29A = 42pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #17 Marcus Foligno ~ 112 PIM’s
2. #44 Nic Deslauriers ~ 111 PIM’s*
3. #21 Brandon Duhaime ~ 105 PIM’s
1. #33 Cam Talbot (31-12-4) 2.78GAA .911% 3SO
2. #29 Marc-Andre Fleury (26-22-5) 2.90GAA .909% 4SO*
Arizona Coyotes (22-50-7) 51pts 8th in the Central
2.43 Goals For Per Game (32nd in the NHL)
3.78 Goals Against Per Game (30th in the NHL)
13.5% Power Play (30th in the NHL)
74.2% Penalty Kill (30th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #8 Nick Schmaltz ~ 23G 32A = 55pts
2. #81 Phil Kessel ~ 7G 42A = 49pts
3. #53 Shayne Gostisbehere ~ 11G 33A = 44pts
4. #72 Travis Boyd ~ 14G 18A = 32pts
5. #86 Anton Stralman ~ 6G 14A = 20pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #26 Antoine Roussel ~ 56 PIM’s
2. #81 Phil Kessel ~ 40 PIM’s
3. #75 Kyle Capobianco ~ 34 PIM’s
1. #30 Harri Sateri (0-2-1) 5.88GAA .822%
2. #70 Karel Vejmelka (12-32-3) 3.61GAA .900% 1SO
*- Denotes stats are from multiple teams.
There are certain things you don’t expect to see when you’re writing a game preview. Frequently, I pull up the opposing team’s website for nuggets to use. Whether I use those nuggets or not, is a different story. But today is going to be a day when I use those nuggets. However, it’s more like a boulder or a large lead weight than a cute little nugget. The propaganda coming out of the Coyotes front office/social media team is pure gold. So let’s take a little field trip over to Arizona’s website, shall we?
When you first pull it up, you’re “treated” to a “Thank You Glendale” pop-up. I don’t like pop-ups on a good day, but especially not early in the morning and especially not when it’s trying to spin a tale. If you live under a rock, then maybe you’re unaware just how bad things are for the Central Division’s worst team. You see, the Coyotes’ owners have been having some trouble paying their bills, especially when it comes to their arena there in Glendale. Next season, they’re moving to Tempe and playing in the Arizona State University hockey arena. Now you may thinking, “well that’s not great but it can’t be that bad.” Well ASU’s arena doesn’t nearly have the capacity of Mariucci Arena or Kohl Center.
How the Coyotes are able to even remain in Arizona is the question many ask. For many, I think we’re of the opinion that they have some dirt on a league executive. I don’t know about you, but it has to be the only explanation. The Minnesota North Stars were allowed to be moved when they had better attendance. Sure, the arena question back in the day was a big one, but it played into the move. Well that and Norm Green’s less than stellar reputation in the office with female employees. But again, that’s another story for another day. However, it still begs the question why the Coyotes seemingly can’t be moved.
In the next few days, I would expect to see some roster moves made. Nothing really monumental, but just with the health of the players in mind. Tonight, we can expect that Marcus Foligno will make his return from Covid-19 protocol. I know I always miss his presence on the ice, whether in the physicality he brings or his leadership. However, speaking of his leadership, I have to say I was impressed with the vocal leadership role Joel Eriksson Ek brought. With the A on his chest Sunday night, he let the officials know he was not pleased with the number of times that Nashville goaltender David Rittich “accidentally” kicked the goal off its moorings.
Considering that Minnesota and Saint Louis are point for point, and keep doing so even though Minnesota still has a game in hand, it would not be out of the question to see players rest. Saint Louis plays Colorado tonight, so there’s a possibility that Minnesota goes ahead in points. But then considering our next game is against the Calgary Flames, that could quickly even up again if the Blues beat the Avalanche. Then combine that with out last game against Colorado, which then erases the game in hand and the regular season in general, it almost makes sense to rest some players before the playoffs.
The two players that would most likely get some nights off would be Kirill Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala. While home ice is still a possibility, I don’t know if it’s worth it if your most offensively skilled players get hurt. If they sit, there’s a possibility that Marco Rossi could get called up. However that call up is highly dependent on how the Iowa Wild play tonight as well. The point system in the AHL when it comes to the playoffs is beyond confusing. I need a flowchart, which then gives me a headache. I think if they lose tonight, they’re eliminated from the AHL playoffs, hence why Rossi could/would get the call. That should make the Rossi fanboys happy. I wish they would realize that he’s done little in Iowa lately to deserve their idolization, but then you can rarely make fanboys see reason.
Now, I suppose we should circle back to tonight’s opponent. Now they’re in a bit of a free fall when it comes to their roster. First off, they are currently without their leading scorer Clayton Keller due to injury. I don’t mind his absence, as he usually finds some way to score against Minnesota. Speaking of players that always manage to find a goal against the Wild, there’s always Phil Kessel for that dubious honor. Right now, the Coyotes are in full late-season audition phase. While Keller is out, they’re pulling in several former college players, such as Minnesota State star, Nathan Smith and former Wild draftee Jack McBain. Not only are they getting NHL experience, but they’re getting prime minutes in prime roles. Talk about trial by fire.
Veterans are also playing their roles. Kessel and Nick Schmaltz are leading this group of young players. However offense has been hard to come by all season. They’ve been tasked to provide offense in the absence of Keller, but also to provide leadership. I don’t envy any player in Arizona right now, because their organizational leadership is failing all of them, and moving to a college rink isn’t going to make things any better.
Things are also a bit up and down on the blue line. While some scoring comes from Shane Gostisbehere, it’s not enough to make a difference. Most seasons, most teams would be elated getting 11 goals from a defenseman. However that doesn’t make up for both the play before the injury of Jake Chychrun. Even before he got injured, he was posting a horrid -20 in the +/- stat. If you want to experience sadness, just pull up the +/- for the Coyotes. It also goes a long way to explain the Coyotes’ overall horrid offensive and defensive stats. I suddenly feel better about Minnesota’s penalty kill and goals against per game. Veteran defenseman Anton Stralman tries to fill in the void, but he’s in the twilight of his career.
Goaltending in Arizona isn’t much better. The Coyotes have pretty much left Karel Vejmelka out to dry. He is frequently pummeled by pucks. The mere fact that he can boast an over 90% save percentage is almost a miracle. This is even more impressive considering the Coyotes give up an average of 35 shots per game, worst in the league. The warm body that serves as Vejmelka’s back up is Harri Sateri, and he probably wishes that he was just about anywhere else. In fact, I would imagine just about any player on that roster wishes they were anywhere else.
I cannot express enough just how important it is for Minnesota to come out strong tonight. They fact that they have a good chance of going ahead of Saint Louis in the standings should be reason enough. However, I do worry that they play down to their opponent instead of looking like a determined playoff team. A playoff team with home ice at stake. While I always worry which version shows up, all I ask is for them to play smart, safe hockey. This is not the time to take stupid, possibly suspension worthy penalties. Nor is it time for injuries.