The Arizona Coyotes are not a good NHL hockey team.
Their roster strikes an impressive balance in which, besides one or two notable exceptions (Oliver Ekman-Larsson, namely), every player is either a youngster whose best hockey is ahead of them (Max Domi, Brendan Perlini, Lawson Crouse, Jakob Chychrun), a journeyman (Jamie McGinn, Ryan White), or cast-off ill-fit for the role in which he’s been placed (like, say, Peter Holland in the role of first-line centre).
Their score-adjusted possession numbers are the worst in the league. Their offence runs through Radim Vrbata, a 35-year-old whose scoring pace just qualifies him as a first-line scorer, and accordingly the Coyotes produce fewer goals than all but one NHL team.
Starting goaltender Mike Smith is actually experiencing something of a rebound season after a bad 2014-15 and an injured 2015-16, but it’s been generally not enough to counterbalance the futility of the play in front of him. This theme continues on special teams, where both the powerplay and penalty kill rank among the league’s bottom six units.
For a team with championship aspirations, sizing up an opponent burdened by this sort of narrative should allow for some confidence. But after the Colorado Avalanche flipped the script not 48 hours ago, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Habs were feeling a little gun-shy.
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Tale of the Tape
|52.48||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||46.21|
|1.26||5v5 Goal Ratio||0.75|
It’s telling that at the present moment, the Coyotes organization is less concerned about the quality of the product on the ice than where that ice might be located. But while General Manager John Chayka is in the earliest stages of rebuilding his squad and looking forward to a Stanley Cup window perhaps five years in the future, the Montreal Canadiens are not a team that’s rebuilding. They need to start winning, and the Coyotes are the type of team the Habs should be expected to beat.
The most recent problem for the Tricolore, as was on full display Tuesday, has been generating offence. With that concern in mind, the Canadiens have recalled two more offensively minded players in Michael McCarron and Daniel Carr from the St. John’s IceCaps. It remains to be seen if both players or just one will find their way into the lineup this evening, but either would be an offensive upgrade over the player sent to the AHL in their place, Jacob de la Rose.
The Habs might also look to carry forward one of the more positive aspects of Tuesday night’s game, the Alex Galchenyuk - Artturi Lehkonen - Paul Byron line. Those three, at least until Brendan Gallagher returns and resumes his scoring pace of previous seasons, may be the three Habs best equipped to supplement whatever production comes from the Canadiens’ first line. Ice time together, and in greater volume, could be a catalyst toward jump-starting Montreal’s slumbering offence.
Losing to Colorado demonstrated to Habs fans that there’s no such thing as a sure thing in the National Hockey League, but at this stage of the season, it’s darn near certain that the Canadiens are going to the playoffs and even more so that their opponents this evening are not.
It’s been a discouraging last month in Montreal, but the wins are going to come again eventually. Facing a franchise years removed from both past and future success, tonight would be an excellent time to get this season back on track.