RECORDS: Hawks 33-32-10 Coyotes 36-33-7
PUCK DROP: 9pm
HI HOMER! FIND YOUR SOULMATE: Five For Howling
Only because the Western Conference refuses to let anyone die (at least outside Southern California), tonight’s tilt still has implications on the final wildcard spot. With their decisive win in Winnipeg last night, the Stars have probably extricated themselves from this Battle Stupid. The Wild still seem to be going the other way, though they’re three points up on the Hawks but having played two games more. The two combatants tonight are officially not dead, so this somehow clears the bar of “BIG GAME.” We know how that’s gone for the Hawks, with Sunday’s hail mary being their only reprieve.
Since you last saw the Coyotes, which was getting speed-bagged by Brendan Perlini, they’ve gone 2-4-1 and have lost those four all in a row leading to his one. Their last out was a cure of insomnia, shutout-loss to the Islanders, who have a habit of doing that. Getting pumped by the Lightning on the road is par for the course, but also eating it to the Panthers and Devils is not. It’s left the Yotes two points behind the Avalanche having played the same number of games. Let’s say their forlorn hopes are fading.
The problems for the Coyotes are hardly inconspicuous. Since putting up a touchdown on the Ducks, in this 0-4-1 stretch they’ve scored six goals. That’s not going to get it done, no matter what kind of holistic/satanic ceremonies Darcy Kuemper may be performing in the crease to put out numbers like this. And the Coyotes don’t score because they simply don’t have enough talent. Yes, Derek Stepan is back, but when you desperately need Derek Stepan to return, that says everything about what you are and where you still need to go.
I suppose the Coyotes can claim to be a little hard done by, as in those five games they’ve been on the positive side of the possession ledger. But they don’t do as much with that as most opponents will, so they’ve lost the chance battle. There’s not enough here to turn possession into threat consistently, and that will be their problem until they produce a star out of the kids they have or they convince one to sign there. Which ought to be a real trick. Worker bees need a queen, after all.
So the Yotes can be GO HARD all they want, and there is a decent amount of speed here, and they can gobble up points in the doldrums of the season when other teams are in the midst of, “I can’t be fucking bothered with this” phase. But when teams are trying, or just ramping up for the playoffs, they’re short. The Hawks will find this out themselves in a week, if not sooner. But it’s enough to put the Hawks off for sure, and the Yotes will definitely be looking for some get-back after getting it up them sideways on Madison St. a couple weeks back.
As for the Hawks, I guess if they’re still counting these as real games they need to run the table this week. That includes a trip to San Jose, a team that has treated them like a marrow bone twice already but is kind of a mess at the moment, can’t get a save anywhere, and is basically locked in where they are and is waiting for the playoffs to start. So maybe you can goof a win there, who knows? But beating the Yotes and Kings is an absolute must, because the last week is murder. But hey, if you’re going to pull a miracle, pull A MIRACLE.
Only changes tonight you’d see is the defensive rotation in some fashion that doesn’t really matter. One would think at home the Coyotes will come out far more aggressive, for one after what went on last time and after losing four in a row on the road. The Coyotes are faster than the Hawks and if they play up to that they can cause all sorts of headaches. If they’re on the heels and give the Hawks’s greater star power time and space to be the Hawks’ greater star power…well, you saw what happened last time. You’ll know how this will go by how out-and-up the Coyotes are playing.
Hey, it’s better to have games with minimal stakes on them than just running out the clock, I guess. Let’s take it a little further.
Game #76 Preview Suite