This game is shaping up to be your classic “Unstoppable force meets immovable object” as the Tampa Bay Lightning face the Arizona Coyotes.
The Bolts are the most prolific offensive team in the league this year, posting a top-three expected goals for rate and backing that up with the league’s best shooting percentage and power play conversion rate.
Now, a little bit on shooting percentage. Unless you are a team full of Steven Stamkos’, Alex Ovechkin’s, and Patrik Laine’s, it’s not good that your shooting percentage is high because it will tend to regress back to about the league average (9%) over time. The Lightning power play has been on fire, and it’s a place where you can boost your overall shooting percentage without those regression consequences, so as long as the Lightning keep doing what they’re doing at 5v5 and on the power play, they’ll be able to manage themselves well.
For the Coyotes, they have a middling offense, but have been winning their games on the back of their goaltending. Darcy Kuemper and Antti Ranta both have save percentages over .920 and they sit third and ninth in goals saved above average rates this season. They have been very good in front of a mostly decent team, propelling them to first in the weak Pacific Division.
Offensively, the Coyotes aren’t much to write home about. Nick Schmaltz leads them in scoring with 35 points in 45 games. He would rank sixth on the Bolts.
Oh, but they have Taylor Hall now.
Niklas Hjalmarsson has only played four games this season. He’s been out since October with a cracked fibula. Three months later, he is expected to make his return at some point soon. He is on the South East trip with the team as they are passing through Florida, Tampa Bay, and Carolina this week, but won’t be in tonight.
Goalies Antti Raanta, Darcy Kuemper, Adin Hill & Ivan Prosvetov will all begin this three-game road trip with the Coyotes vs. Florida, Tampa & Carolina. Corey Schwab will have a full classroom.— Craig Morgan (@CraigSMorgan) January 5, 2020
Also, defenseman Nik Hjalmarsson is on the trip.
UPDATE: Darcy Kuemper has been injured and Adin Hill is getting the start tonight. Uh... Be nice, Tampa?
Tampa Bay Lightning
Steven Stamkos - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Ondrej Palat - Anthony Cirelli - Tyler Johnson
Patrick Maroon - Cedric Paquette - Alex Killorn
Carter Verhaeghe - Mitchell Stephens - Yanni Gourde
Victor Hedman - Yan Rutta
Kevin Shattenkirk - Mikhail Sergachev
Braydon Coburn - Erik Cernak
Taylor Hall - Christian Dvorak - Michael Garland
Clayton Keller - Carl Soderberg - Nick Schmaltz
Lawson Crouse - Derek Stepan - Phil Kessel
Vinnie Hinostroza - Brad Richardson - Christian Fischier
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Jason Demers
Jakob Chychrun - Alex Goligoski
Jordan Oesterle - Ilya Lyubushkin