Time: 7:30 PM EDT
Location: Amalie Arena
Broadcast/Streaming: SUN, FAZ+
Opponent SBNation Site: Five For Howling
Despite many people’s misgivings and an 0-10-1 record for their first eleven games of the season, the Arizona Coyotes have a young core that’s increasingly fun to watch. It’s almost like GM John Chayka, the analytics wonderkind who carefully constructed a team that is 30th in the league, has a plan. According Chayka, who spoke to Arizona Sports for a story entitled Coyotes’ Chayka is confident in future of the team’s core, the plan is this:
”With some of the core we have, we have seven or eight players we think can be part of a Stanley Cup team. Now it’s my job to surround those guys with the proper pros so that they can grow and blossom into what we think they can become.”
When the Bolts last met the Coyotes in Arizona in December, they bested them 4-1. That one goal was from Clayton Keller. From the recap:
The brightest spot amidst a dark season for Arizona has been the emergence of Clayton Keller as a Calder Trophy candidate. He showcased part of the reason why with an impressive shot on the power play to cut the lead to two goals with about eight minutes left in the second period. Vasilevskiy was screened on the play and Keller beat him cleanly with a wrister from the right circle.
Since January of 2018, Arizona has gone 15-11-6, a win average of above .500, at least. The young core that Chayka is talking about consists of a few kids, including the seventh-overall pick from the Auston Matthews draft, Keller. Keller is leading the team in goals and points with 23G/57A, and has broken the franchise record for rookie points, previously held by Peter Mueller. There’s another vaguely dubious record on the horizon for him -- in this decade, only two Coyotes have scored more than 25 goals in a season. (For more sad Coyotes records, go here.)
Kevin Allen of USA Today provided this cute insight into Keller’s work ethic: “Chayka said [Coyotes Head Coach Rick] Tocchet has learned to expect late-night texts from Keller with videos and thoughts about what he needs to do to have a greater impact.”
Why did the Coyotes suck so much at the start of the year? Allen speculated that the string of losses came about due to several reasons: it could be that losing veterans Shane Doan and Mike Smith, as well as the work it took to adjust to a new coach, threw the team off their game. The Coyotes’ starting goalie Antti Raanta and new defender Jakob Chychrun had to recover from injuries, and the veterans brought in to mentor the rookies needed time to get used to Tocchet’s system too.
But now that the team has found their game, and can ice a team with interesting young players like Max Domi and Jakob Chychrun, what IS Tocchet’s system?
Five For Howling wrote an excellent analysis of the system, but it boils down to this:
Essentially, the whole focus of Tocchet’s philosophy both in this system and among the forwards in general in Pittsburgh is puck movement at speed. It’s an interesting hybrid system because the shots can essentially come from anywhere and it’s increasingly becoming the standard in the NHL. In order to make it work you need a skilled offensive defenseman for the quarterback, a big forward willing to provide a screen in front, and players who are comfortable making quick decisions on both passing and shooting.
[....] In short, it’s a system that could have been built for the likes of Oliver Ekman-Larsson and many of the Coyotes crop of forwards. It’s a system that also contains a fair bit of autonomy, too, particularly for the quarterback - he is encouraged to shoot at will or feed either wing for one-timers.
Will Tocchet and Keller grab an increasingly tired Andrei Vasilevskiy by the throat and use creative plays to out-skate Tampa Bay and get the win?
The Yotes haven’t been very good this season but they’ve been surprisingly competent lately. While the front office would probably prefer some losses down the stretch to improve their lottery position, the team on the ice certainly doesn’t seem interested in that. They’re hovering around league average in both shot share and expected goal share. This isn’t a team to take lightly.
The Bolts continue to be what they’ve been. They’re playing well at 5v5 but the penalty kill and goaltending continue to be an issue. Both were much better in the 2-1 loss to the Devils on Saturday so hopefully that’s the first step in a better direction.
Per Coop, Stamkos will not play tonight.— x - Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) March 26, 2018
He’s listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury. #ARIvsTBL
Cooper says Steven Stamkos won’t play tonight vs. Arizona, called it “more maintenance” for him than anything. “Hopefully a little rest here will help him out.” Said it’s nothing long term to be concerned with. #Bolts— Bryan Burns (@BBurnsNHL) March 26, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning
Per Roger Mooney (except we’re pretty sure the last two lines are swapped):
Miller-Johnson-Kucherov— Roger Mooney (@RogerMooney50) March 26, 2018
Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman
Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Braydon Coburn - Mikhail Sergachev
Louis Domingue — starting, woooooo.
Note: Lines are from Left Wing Lock, so they could be totally wrong. Also I’m not sure which goalie is starting.
Richard Panik - Derek Stepan - Clayton Keller
Max Domi - Christian Dvorak - Christian Fischer
Jordan Martinook - Brad Richardson - Nick Cousins
Brendan Perlini - Dylan Strome - Josh Archibald
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Luke Schenn
Jakob Chychrun - Alex Goligoski
Kevin Connauton - Trevor Murphy