October 9, 2014 can not come soon enough. For the Arizona Coyotes, it is a date for redemption. For the fans, a date for hope. By missing the playoffs last season by a slim margin, Dave Tippett and the Coyotes are ready to be a force in this league. Lord Stanley has yet to make a trip to the desert and on October 9, 2014; his road to Glendale begins.
We are merely two months out from puck drop in Jobing.com Arena and feelings of excitement and anticipation are looming through us all. It’s never too early to analyze the Arizona Coyotes first game of the 2014-2015 season.
I am here to breakdown the season opener:
Winnipeg Jets @ Arizona Coyotes: October 9, 2014
Both teams ended up coming short of playoff contention last season and some of the main reasons had to do with scoring goals. In 2013 the Coyotes ended up tallying 216 total goals as opposed to the Jets 227. The Coyotes will look to fill the hole left by sharpshooter Radim Vrbata with the acquisition of Sam Gagner this season. Along with a growing Mikkel Boedker and the leadership of Shane Doan and Martin Hanzal; the Coyotes are looking to add more goals to their total. The Jets have a stream of talent on the offensive side of the puck. With captain Andrew Ladd heading up an offense with Blake Wheeler and Evander Kane, the Jets may be hard to shut out.
The Edge: Winnipeg Jets - The Coyotes will have to prove they are on offensive threat in the league early to gain some respect from other NHL teams. Winnipeg’s established presence on the ice can put up a fight against goaltender Mike Smith.
Defense is the Coyotes bread and butter. Coach Tippett prides himself on a team with a solid forecheck who is not afraid to swallow up a shot for the goaltender. The Coyotes offense can score as well. Keith Yandle heads up the pairings with Oliver Ekman-Larsson as his right hand man to join the rush. Veterans like Derek Morris and Zbynek Michalek provide relief in their own zone with body to body hits and shot blocking abilities. Winnipeg has a few stars on the ice that can pack a punch as well. Dustin Byfuglien is one of the top defenseman in the league who has a solid partner in Zach Bogosian. Momentum can easily shift when the two are on the ice together.
The Edge: Arizona Coyotes - While Byfuglien is a top notch defender, the defensive chemistry of the Arizona Coyotes can carry their team to victory. Arizona has an even mix of defensive and offensive defensemen that can be a threat to any team in this league.
The Coyotes are glad to have starting net minder Mike Smith in between the pipes for the season opener after his season ending injury against the New York Rangers last year. Backup Thomas Greiss packed his backs while Devan Dubnyk came to take his spot. Sean Burke, goaltending coach for the Arizona Coyotes, will be pleased to work with such talent and aim to improve both of their games. Mike Smith finished last season with a 27-21-10 record with a 2.64 goals against average and a .915 save percentage. Winnipeg still rides it out with Ondrej Pavelec as the starter. Pavelec posted a 22-26-7 record last season with a 3.01 goals against average and a .901 save percentage.
The Edge: Arizona Coyotes - Mike Smith has some unfinished business as his 2013-2014 season came to an early end. Smitty is currently 100% healthy and ready to get back on the ice. Watch for him to put on a good showing against the Jets in the season opener.
It is still very early too predict how this game is going to go. By accounting for last season’s statistics and off season acquisitions it could easily go either way. While Winnipeg has a more solid offensive game, Arizona holds the key advantage in the defensive and goaltending categories. The electricity of Jobing.com Arena from the fans will certainly come into play as well. It’s a new season for the Arizona Coyotes and they are eager to start it all off with a win at home.
Final: Arizona Coyotes 3 Winnipeg Jets 1