Time: 9:00 pm Eastern Time
Location: Gila River Arena
Broadcast/Streaming: SunS, FS-A,
Opponent SB Nation Site: Five for Howling
Coming off their third straight road victory, the Tampa Bay Lightning are set to play their second back-to-back of the season this evening against the Arizona Coyotes. At first glance, this is a bit of a mismatch, but the Coyotes aren’t a team to take lightly. With injuries to Victor Hedman and Ondrej Palat, Tampa Bay should tread lightly—this game has the makings of a trap. Louis Domingue will get the start in net this evening.
The Coyotes have struggled mightily to score goals to start the season. They’re in the bottom 10 for goals even though they’re also a top five team in shots per game. Arizona is a strong possession team, currently controlling 54% of the shots through their first nine games. Defensively, the Coyotes look like one of the stronger teams this season with another top five appearance in shots against and goals against (though, it should be noted that Tampa Bay is right behind Arizona in goals against).
I reached out to The Athletic’s Catherine Silverman to get her thoughts on how the Coyotes season has gone in the early going.
The Coyotes started off their season scoring just three goals in their first four games - made all the more horrifying by the fact that one of those was a shootout goal, and they all came in the same game. The team didn’t score a goal on home ice until Thursday night, a whopping nine games into the regular season.
That being said, their record was deceptive. Their goaltenders played well, and they out shot their opponents by a whopping 37-23 for that first four-game stretch. Once they took off for a four-game road trip, they finally found their groove, and haven’t really looked back. In their last four games, they’ve won three times, earning all three victories in regulation by identical 4-1 decisions. Their only loss in that stretch was a 5-3 loss to the Winnipeg Jets, and even that game stayed close until an empty-netter at the end. Christian Fischer has a hat trick, Clayton Keller has three goals in his last two games, and even Lawson Crouse has gotten in on the action - and the players who haven’t found the scoresheet yet, like Oliver Ekman-Larsson, have been dominating in shot metrics. There’s still some hesitation and lack of confidence from a handful of players (namely the struggling Brendan Perlini), but the team’s top six forward group is finally starting to click. The return of Alex Galchenyuk means more scoring may be on the way, too.
This lines up with Arizona’s metrics. A strong possession game mixed with some great goaltending but horrible shooting luck has the Coyotes near the bottom of the Western Conference standings. The season is still young and all it takes is a small winning streak to right the ship. Arizona has won three of their last four games and is looking to take advantage of a Lightning team that will be tired and missing two of its regulars.
Palat’s absence will sting, but it isn’t as impactful as the loss of Victor Hedman. Jon Cooper will likely lean on the Ryan McDonagh-Anton Stralman pairing to do most of the heavy lifting while Hedman sits out. This also provides an opportunity for Slater Koekkoek to slot into the lineup. Hopefully, the 24-year old defender can impress during this chance.
This game could resemble the Colorado game from three days ago. Arizona might not be as explosive as the Avalanche, but they’re stingier on the back-end and have the possession numbers to choke the life out of teams. Antti Raanta’s overall save percentage of .911 doesn’t look great on the surface, but at 5-on-5 he’s just outside the top 10 with a .926 (with Andrei Vasilevskiy sitting right behind him). Domingue currently has an overall save percentage of .934 and a .911 at 5-on-5.
It’ll be interesting to see if Tampa Bay’s talent throughout the lineup overwhelms Arizona, but don’t be surprised is this game ends 1-0 or 2-1 in either team’s favor. However, if there is one area that could spell trouble for Arizona, it’s in the special teams department. Arizona’s power-play is poor this season and could shift momentum in Tampa Bay’s favor if the Lightning’s penalty kill continues to lead the league. Arizona is the second best penalty killing team in the league though, so it won’t be an easy one to take advantage of.
If we’re looking at this game from a talent perspective, Tampa Bay should pull out a victory, but this surging Coyotes team has spoiler written all over it. I expect them to be a wild card team this season if they can score consistently. Hopefully, Tampa Bay can secure two points to go 4-0-1 on this road trip, but it sure isn’t going to be easy.
Tampa Bay Lightning
(These are guesses due to the injuries and we will update as more information comes out from the team)
Yanni Gourde - Brayden Point - Steven Stamkos
J.T. Miller - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Mathieu Joseph
Adam Erne - Cedric Paquette - Ryan Callahan
Ryan McDonagh - Anton Stralman
Braydon Coburn - Mikhail Sergachev
Slater Koekkoek - Dan Girardi
Lawson Crouse - Alex Galchenyuk - Clayton Keller
Brendan Perlini - Derek Stepan - Christian Fischer
Michael Grabner - Brad Richardson - Vinnie Hinostroza
Dylan Strome - Nick Cousins - Josh Archibald
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Jason Demers
Alex Goligoski - Niklas Hjalmarsson
Kevin Connauton - Jordan Osterle