The San Jose Sharks are so hot right now. Last night they took their seventh straight win, thanks to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Sharks pulled off a 5-2 victory over the team that sunk them in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2016, a memory we will forever suppress. They go into tonight’s game with a win streak against the division’s second-to-last team.
The Arizona Coyotes are barely ahead of the Los Angeles Kings in the Pacific. With a 20-22-3 record, things aren’t looking great for them. It should be noted that they are coming off a three-game winning streak, prior to the ugly 7-1 loss to the Calgary Flames, of course. They got some notable wins over the New York Rangers, Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers. Sure, all those teams are a garbage fire right now, but wins are wins!
The Desert Dogs had one heck of a game against the Edmonton Oilers. The 3-2 victory came with two goals from rookie Conor Garland, one coming off his face. He returned to the ice shortly thereafter, and scored again. Hockey, the beautiful game. Garland has eight goals on the season thus far.
The Coyotes' last game, however, was one they’ll hope to forget. The Calgary Flames delivered them a sizzling hot 7-1 loss on a plater. Jordan Oesterle had the only goal for the Coyotes, his fourth of the season. The Arizona Coyotes may be struggling, but they’re finding help from players who aren’t top scorers as of late.
As for top scorers, Clayton Keller leads the team in points with 31 (nine goals, 22 assists). Brad Richardson is the Coyotes’ go-to goal guy, topping the team with 11. He won’t be an issue for the Sharks defense, though. He’s currently on the injured reserve, having suffered an upper-body injury against the Vancouver Canucks. He’s week-to-week and will be out indefinitely. Defensemen Kevin Connauton is currently day-to-day, it’s unclear if he will make his return to the lineup tonight. Our old friend Jason Demers will also be out indefinitely with a knee injury. He claims he’ll hit the ice again before the season ends, but things don’t look great for Logan Couture’s best friend.
The Sharks’ storyline is as different as can be. They’re undefeated in 2019 and playing pretty great hockey that’s giving us all hope. The 5-2 win over Pittsburgh had everything; a Tomas Hertl hat trick, two Brenden Dillon assists, a Joe Thornton goal in his 1,000th NHL game and a goal from Marcus Sorenson fresh off a contract extension. Martin Jones made 22 saves between the pipes. Ah, yes, we love to see it. The Arizona Coyotes? Probably not so much.
What’s up with the Coyotes’ goaltending?
Goaltending has been a rough subject for the Coyotes this season. They lost starter Antti Raanta early in the season. It doesn’t look as though he’ll be returning between the pipes for the Desert Dogs until next season. With that being said, finding someone to fill his skates has been a challenge. Darcy Kuemper, Raanta’s backup, has been doing an okay job in the starting slot. He was in net for all three of those wins on that short lived streak. When his backup, Adin Hill, was on the ice against his hometown team the Calgary Flames, he stumbled. He allowed seven goals to pass him. He’s being sent down to their AHL affiliate on assignment. He’ll get more playing time with the Tucson Roadrunners, hoping to build his skill. Calvin Pickard, who was acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers, will play backup to Kuemper after finishing conditioning with the Roadrunners. Who will we see in net tonight? Probably Kuemper.
How can the Sharks secure another 2019 win?
I’m going to keep it real with you, they need to keep doing exactly what they’re doing. The offense is generating scoring opportunities. The Sharks put 31 shots on net against the Ottawa Senators and 27 against the Vegas Golden Knights. Martin Jones has stepped up in net, making 36 saves against the Golden Knights, who fired 38 shots at him. Justin Braun has returned to the lineup, changing up the defensive pairings (but what’s new, the D pairings have been an interesting component all season with the addition of Erik Karlsson). The Sharks are playing top notch hockey, finding themselves third in the NHL power rankings. To quote Kris Jenner: you’re doing amazing, sweetie.
The Coyotes’ power play...?
The Coyotes’ power play has been a rollercoaster. They’re not great on the power play, though both of Conor Garland’s goals against Edmonton came on the power play. What should be noted about the Coyotes’ special teams is that their penalty kill is good — like, really good. First in the NHL good. Their penalty kill percentage is at 88.7 percent. For a team who sits so low in the standings, it’s quick to discount them entirely. But, they’re great on the penalty kill. On the power play? They’re meh. So the Sharks have to be potent on the power play and avoid unnecessary penalties; we don’t want Garland’s face to score another power play goal.
Bold prediction: The Sharks will head into the All-Star break still undefeated. This one will be a 6-1 victory. The one Coyotes goal will come off of someone’s face.
Puck drops in the desert at 7 p.m. PT! Leave your own bold predictions in the comments below.