The league leading Minnesota Wild are in town for a tilt vs. our Coyotes on Saturday night. Think about this. Wild are number one, Coyotes number three. Never have I thought that would be the lead paragraph.
The Wild are benefitting from some offseason trades that brought Devin Setoguchi (on Injured Reserve currently) and Dany Heatley over from the Sharks. They have perennial NHL hit leader and the second favorite son of Welland, Ontario Cal Clutterbuck, USA product Matt Cullen, and Nik Backstrom between the pipes.
What can you expect? Defense. Low scoring. Tight, crisp passing. There is no one on the Wild in double digits for goals. Mikko Koivu has 18 assists. Heatley and Cullen have eight goals apiece. The offense runs through them. They sit on leads, smother the opponent, force them to get caught in playing a style they don’t want to play. In other words, Coyote hockey.
If you look at the top teams in the Western Conference this year, the leader board is comprised of teams playing a defense first game. Detroit and Chicago can score at will, but they have such good two way players that you forget they can hand five or six goals on you, sometimes in the first period.
What do the Coyotes need to do? Score first and stay out of the sin bin. No stick penalties (looking at you Derek Morris). Limit their power play. Our PK was best in the league for fifteen games. Lately, we’ve been scored on more than Lindsey Lohan. It all starts with the goalie. When Mike Smith is on, he is one of the best. When he is off, everything is off. There are not many teams that depend on goaltending more than the Coyotes. We don’t have a Steven Stamkos, someone to light the lamp at a point per game pace. We need to play tough, physical, make the opponent chase the game.
Prediction: 3-1 Coyotes. Fourth Line gets two. Paul Bissonnette plays and we some Welland, Ontario on Welland, Ontario violence. If I am wrong, I give you the next two predictions for free.