Even though the NHL’s new division alignment system is in it’s second year, the old Pacific division rival Arizona Coyotes and Dallas Stars have the same amount of passion to defeat the other in the Western Conference to this very day. The 2013-2014 season ended with the Dallas Stars knocking off the Arizona Coyotes for the final playoff spot in the West and that is something that the Coyotes will not forget any time soon. The 2014-2015 season yields only three meetings between the two: Tuesday, November 11th; Thursday, November 20th; and Wednesday, December 31st. While three games against the Stars do not seem very crucial, the Coyotes will need to pick up each and every one with a win against their Western Conference foes if they want to play in the playoffs this year.
In order to prepare you for this season’s match up; Howlin’ Hockey is here to give you the ins and outs of how the Coyotes stack up against the Stars. You have to learn a little bit about your rival in order to beat them.
Its no secret that the Coyotes need help offensively. The exit of Radim Vrbata hurts, but hopefully the acquisition of Sam Gagner can help fill the hole Vrbata left behind. With veteran captain Shane Doan and alternate captain Martin Hanzal, the Coyotes offense consists of physicality towards the net and contributions from the blue line. The additions of Max Domi and Henrik Samuelsson will seek to contribute to the squad as well in their rookie seasons. The Dallas Stars on the other hand are loaded. Led by captain Jamie Benn, the Stars can score with forwards Tyler Seguin, Cody Eakin, Erik Cole, and Shawn Horcoff. The 19 year old Valeri Nichushkin is looking for more ice time after his 34 point rookie season last year as well. The biggest surprise was the ability for the organization to acquire both Ales Hemsky and Jason Spezza in the offseason. These two will definitely help this club return to the playoffs this coming season.
The Edge: Dallas Stars
“Defense” is the one word that the Coyotes organization loves to discuss as their mainframe is structured around tight forechecking, shots from the blue line, and physical contact. Yandle…Michalek…Ekman-Larsson…Stone; need I say more? Along with young talent like Rundblad, Gormley, and Murphy; it is safe to say that the Coyotes have depth.
The Edge: Arizona Coyotes
The key to solid goaltending for the ‘Yotes is keeping Mike Smith healthy. While he hasn’t held a consistent form like he did in the 2012 playoffs, Smitty gets better game by game. Thomas Greiss packed his bags as Devan Dubnyk came to take his spot on the pine as back up. With goaltending coach Sean Burke, the Coyotes will be fine between the pipes this season. The Dallas Stars have a similar situation. Kari Lehtonen returns along with his .919 SV% and 2.41 GAA that will make scoring slightly difficult. Just like the Coyotes, Dallas will have a new goalie securing the back up role. With the departure of Tim Thomas, the Dallas Stars signed Anders Linback to a one year deal.
The Edge: Both Teams
While it is still very early to tell how this series is going to go, it is safe to say that it will easily be a toss up. Dallas praises their offense while the Coyotes hold true to their defensive ways. The goaltending matchup between Smith and Lehtonen will be a fun one to watch as both are in the height of their career.
See you November 11th.