The NHL-owned Phoenix Coyotes (19-11-2), are currently three points ahead of us in the Western Conference. A win tonight would leap-frog us over Dallas who remains idle tonight for the last spot in the play-off race.
Phoenix has been known for its young and inexperienced offense and 32 games into this season and it’s pretty much business as usual. They have a less than impressive 2.41 G/G average...only good enough to 27th in the league. Detroit's offense has not been overpowering, but has managed to get the job done in the last two games. They currently have a 2.69 G/G which is has them sitting at 19th in the NHL. Advantage: Detroit
Phoenix’s defense, and more importantly, goaltending is what has propelled them to such a great start this regular season. Their goalie, Ilya Bryzagalov is most certainly the glue that is holding this team together. The ‘Yotes have a 4th best 2.22 GA/G average. Detroit has improved defensively over the past month, and has slowly climbed all the way to 8th place in the NHL with a stellar 2.62 GA/G average. Advantage: Phoenix
Phoenix’s power-play, much like its offense, has been mediocre at best. Even the enigmatic Robert Lang hasn’t really bolstered the Coyotes’ PP as they are currently ranked 20th in the league, brandishing an 18.0% conversion rate. Detroit’s power-play is not what they would like it to be as far as effectiveness. With the loss of the ENTIRE 2ndunit (Clear, Filppula, Franzen, Kronwall, and Williams), the Red Wings currently have a 20.0% conversion rate on the PP, ranking them 12th overall in the NHL. Advantage: Detroit
As I said the first time these two squads met; the old adage goes “your goalie has to be your best penalty killer”. Bryzgalof is certainly living up to that, as the Coyotes PK ability is one of their few saving graces. Phoenix has the 8th ranked penalty kill in terms of percentage at 83.8% (only a 0.2% drop from the second week of the season when we first met). Detroit’s has continued to perform well. Who knows where they would be in the Standings if they had played this well all season. Despite their dreadful start to the season when a man short, Detroit is currently ranked 17th in the league, killing off 79.8% of penalties taken. Advantage: Phoenix
So if we pull ranks and take the average for GA/G and G/G...
If you combine PK and PP percentages to get an overall effectiveness rating:
Key to this game: goaltending and special teams. If Detroit can convert on its power-play opportunities, they will win this game. The PK has been excellent and shouldn’t have trouble with what the ‘Yotes have to offer. Also, with Howie in net, Adrian Aucoin’s hopes for a floating blocker on a wrist shot from the point go out the freakin’ window…