The Arizona Coyotes play the second of a two-game set against the Colorado Avalanche, who will have Nathan MacKinnon back on the ice.
The Arizona Coyotes were able to salvage a win in Colorado on Monday night due, in large part, to the heroics of goalkeeper Antti Raanta. Raanta took the ice “cold” early in the third period in emergency relief of injured Darcy Kuemper, who reportedly is out for a minimum of two weeks but probably longer. “Rants” (4-2-1) was able to secure the win by saving all 16 shots he faced by the Avalanche.
Tonight’s game will probably feature Antti Raanta as the starter, with Adin Hill as the capable and ready backup. The task at hand will probably get tougher, though, as sharp-shooting and high-scoring Nathan MacKinnon (5G 17A 22 pts) will be back on the ice.
If the Coyotes can replicate the play they managed in the first period of Monday’s win, and can keep up that pace and style for the entire 60 minutes, they will have a good chance to come away with a victory. At the very least, a basic, boring, defensive road-style game is in order, and if the Yotes can manage to attack, defend as 5-man units, and counterattack, they should be fine.
Their physicality paid dividends two days ago, and there’s certainly no reason why they should back off tonight. Right before the Avalanche scored their first goal on Monday, they buzzed around the Yotes’ “D” zone wreaking a just bit of havoc, but when Valeri Nichushkin scored Colorado’s first goal, the Yotes lost some confidence and became tentative. You could almost feel the anxiety level rise and, instead of being their successful, aggressive selves, they lost their composure for a while. Not good.
Perhaps it was due in part to the Coyotes’ unfamiliarity with playing with a lead, but showing too much respect for the Avalanche’s talent-laden team is a recipe for disaster. Giving them too much room to skate and maneuver invites defensive misreads and coverage mistakes. It didn’t take long for the home team to score the tying goal, yet the Coyotes were ultimately able to “pull it together,” regain their composure, and score the ever-important, game and taco winning goal in the third period.
It’s obvious that the Coyotes will need to pay a great deal of attention to Nathan MacKinnon, as he is the playmaker and catalyst for the Avs’ offense. Likewise, the Desert Dogs will have to maximize their support for Antti Raanta on the back end, especially at the beginning of the contest when he’s still settling in to the flow of the game.
One thing’s for sure – the Coyotes cannot afford to have one of their notoriously-slow starts against the high-flying, speedy Avalanche. We’re all anxiously awaiting what happens right from the get go. Let’s go Coyotes!