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GDB Game Notes: Oilers @ Coyotes

The Oilers are in Arizona tonight to begin a back-to-back set of games in the desert. Here are your game day notes.

1. The Coyotes appear to the team to beat in the Zombie Walk for the eighth seed in the Western Conference. Since getting pounded 7-1 by Chicago earlier this week, the Coyotes have won back-to-back games and now have a three-point lead on the Minnesota Wild (and an eight-point lead on the Oilers for eighth place.

2. If the Coyotes did manage to squeak into the playoffs, it would be their first time doing so since 2011-12. That year, a team led by Mike Smith, Shane Doan, and Ray Whitney went all the way to the Western Conference Final before losing to the Los Angeles Kings (the eventual Stanley Cup winners) in five games.

3. Arizona has gone through a long, slow rebuilding process. They tanked for Connor McDavid in 2015 and local-product Auston Matthews in 2016 but didn’t have lottery balls land in their favour. Despite never ending up with the top pick in any of their tanking years, the Coyotes have gone on to build a fairly deep team centered mostly around keeping the puck out of the net. Arizona ranks eighth in the league in goals against despite the fact their top goalie, Antti Raanta, missed a good chunk of the season due to injury.

4. Arizona’s strong defensive play is highlighted by their insanely-good penalty kill. The Coyotes have killed off 85.1 percent of their penalties this season, second behind only the Tampa Bay Lightning. As a team, the Coyotes have also scored 15 short-handed goals, second only behind the Calgary Flames in that category.

5. The Coyotes, of course, have found success mostly through keeping the puck out of the net. Their offence is well below average as they rank 25th in the league in goals for. One thing the Coyotes do have going for them, though, is a deep attack with three lines that can score. While the Oilers, who also rank in the bottom third in the league in goals for, rely on two guys to drive all of their offence, Arizona has 10 forwards and one defenceman who have at least 10 goals.

6. The fact the Coyotes are doing as well as they are this season is impressive. The team has been decimated by injuries, losing key players like Antti Raanta, Alex Galchenyuk, Derek Stepan, Michael Grabner, Christian Dvorak, and Jakob Chychrun to injuries. Only three players, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Nick Cousins, and Clayton Keller, have played in all of Arizona’s 71 games this season. They’ve dressed a total of 30 different skaters and five different goalies.

7. A lot of Arizona’s success also coincides with finally having a close-to-healthy roster. As I said above, Arizona has had one of the worst seasons in terms of man games lost to injury. Now they’re rolling with a nearly-ideal roster, save for Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta. Arizona was a team many selected to have a breakout season this year after their strong finish to the 2017-18 season. Now that they’re healthy, we’re finally seeing that breakout many expected.

8. The Coyotes represent a prime example of how much a winning streak can do for you in a playoff race like the one right now in the Western Conference. When Arizona beat the Oilers a couple of weeks back in Edmonton (the game Connor McDavid was suspended for), they were barely in the playoff mix. But that win kicked off a six-game winning streak that pulled them right up into the mix. Beginning with that shootout win over the Oilers, Arizona dragged themselves into a playoff spot with a 10-2 stretch.

9. I think a major key specifically was finally getting Christian Dvorak on the ice. Dvorak missed the entirety of the season due to an injury and finally made his season debut in late February. Dvorak has five points in nine games centring the team’s top line and the Coyotes have gone 7-2 in that span.

10. This is clearly a must-win for the Oilers at this point. That loss to New Jersey on Wednesday really stuck a knife in Edmonton’s playoff push, so if they want to keep their incredibly faint hopes alive, they need to win this four-point game. A loss tonight means Arizona would be 10 points up on the Oilers with 11 games to play. You aren’t climbing out of that hole

  • Axe

    The “must win” ship sailed a couple of days back (at the latest) … While it may not be mathematically over.. For me personally it is over… I won’t watch the games anymore.. Just highlights and read the wrap ups on here and commiserate with the rest of u on the site

    • Beer_League_Ringer

      ^^^And that folks is the definition of a quitter. Someone who decides things are impossible before they actually are (e.g., mathematically), only to claim *I told you so* if they are correct. Boring.

      Also, Connor and Leon are worth watching. Period. Go Oilers!

  • VvV

    Hopeful prediction: Oilers win vs Arizona, Vegas, and St. Louis; Arizona loses to Edmonton and Tampa Bay, this results in waking up Wednesday morning with the Oilers 2 pts out of a playoff spot with 9 games remaining. (And of course Minnesota, Colorado, and Chicago win at the most 50% in there 2 games during that time).

  • Serious Gord

    So it has come to this…

    At the start of the season how many people had the coyotes finishing ahead of the oil?

    The coyotes have arguably one of the worst fan bases in the league. And – I guess arguably – the shakiest ownerships. Do they own a farm team? Do they have legions of scouts on the payroll? Do they have the means to spend to the cap (and beyond on coaching and management and facilities)? Are they part of the “in crowd” of the hockey establishment?

    Yet they seem destined for a playoff spot and a better season next year than the oil can hope for.

    I think it can be argued – I think it inarguable when pushed – that having a billionaire owner who is a rabid fan with the entire hockey elite on speed dial and the second-best hockey fan base in the league has contributed mightily to the record-setting malaise that is the oilers.

    A collosal – fall-of-the-Roman-Empire – squandering of hockey riches to the ragged hockey Christians living in the catacombs of Phoenix and Raleigh and Tampa.

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    The Oil will be in tough to make the playoffs, the teams ahead of them are doing not too bad, the ducks are behind them and are only a few points back of the Oil and have a few games in hand. The Yotes have played well as of late. That losing skid really did a number on the Oil’s chances of making the playoffs and the problem still is you never know what team is going to show up for the Oil. At least its made for some intresting hockey, but the Oil need big changes next season, and I am not in anyways sold on the assistant coaches, the PK anbd PP are brutal again this year much like last and the Oilers defensive system is a mess and the coaches cant seem to fix any of the three. I dont have a lot of faith in the assistants right now, because the defensive system we play in our end is just horrid, yes the players bare some responsibility for some of the brain farts they have out there, but the systems play in our end wasnt good all year and it isnt any better this far in, something is seriously wrong there.