A West Division battle takes center ice in the desert on Tuesday, with the Arizona Coyotes hosting the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs (20-8-2) took care of business in a big way on Monday, stomping the Coyotes (13-14-5) by a score of 5-1. It was Colorado’s seventh straight win, while Arizona has now dropped five of their last six outings.
Here is a closer look at this matchup, from key stats to players to watch, before giving out a free pick to win. Colorado is a sizable -215 favorite to take this one on the road, while Arizona sits as a +180 home underdog.
By the Numbers
There is a drastic difference in how well these teams shoot and score the puck. Starting with Colorado, the Avalanche average 3.4 goals per game, the third-most in the NHL, on a league-leading 35.2 shots per game.
Compare that to the Coyotes, whose 2.38 goals per game rank 27th, and their 25.6 shots per game is dead-last. Colorado also maintains a 23.4 to 18.9 percent advantage on the power play.
Defensively, it’s all Avs once again. In addition to averaging the most shots per game, Colorado also allows the fewest shots per game, with an average of just under 25. Their 2.2 goals allowed per game is also the second-best in hockey, while their 86.8 percent penalty kill percentage is ranked third.
As for Arizona, the Yotes are giving up 2.97 goals per game to rank 18th while also allowing a 25th-ranked 31.4 shots on goal. They do, however, have a very solid penalty kill at 84.3 percent, ranking seventh in the sport.
The Avalanche are a deep team, but their best players are playing to their highest capabilities right now. Right-wing Mikko Rantanen scored another goal on Monday, his fourth straight game with a gino and his fifth in the last week.
Rantanen also boasts a six-game point streak, boosting his totals to 18 goals and 18 assists. Joining Rantanen with a six-game point streak of his own is Nathan MacKinnon, the star center. MacKinnon has four goals and six assists in that six-game span, giving him a team-high 23 helpers to pair with nine scores.
Besides those two, several others have stepped up in recent games. Captain Gabriel Landeskog now has a five-game point streak, and he’s fresh off of back-to-back one goal, two assist outings capped off with having another helper on Monday.
Not to be out-done, right-winger Joonas Donskoi potted a pair of goals Monday to also bring him to five straight games with a point. Plenty of others have contributed multiple points over the last week or so, including center Nazem Kadri and defensemen Devon Toews and Cale Makar.
Shifting to the Coyotes, the scoresheet has been a little quieter recently, but not by everyone. Veteran center Derick Brassard isn’t far removed from a hat trick, earned Saturday against the Ducks.
The breakout game snapped his five-game point drought, so it perhaps could be the start of him turning things around. Additionally, defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson has been a staple in the desert for a while, as the blue-liner finally scored his first goal of the season Monday to give him back-to-back games with a point.
Besides those two, right-wing Conor Garland has been a steady source of offense for Arizona. Garland has a team-high 16 assists, two of which were earned last week, to go with nine goals. He trails left-wing Clayton Keller, whose back-to-back scoring efforts against Anaheim moved him to 10 goals on the year.
Wings Phil Kessel and Nick Schmaltz have also been able to dish out some helpers, with Kessel doing so in back-to-back efforts heading into Tuesday. Right-wing Tyler Pitlick is the only other player with a point streak in hand, as he also has had two straight games with an apple.
With these teams facing off yesterday and injuries a potential factor, we could see some rather inexperienced goaltenders man the net on Tuesday.
If the Avs would rather not turn to Philipp Grubauer for the second night in a row, they can go with either Hunter Miska or new acquisition Jonas Johansson. Miska has been the backup this year in place of Pavel Francouz but has struggled mightily with a GAA over four. Johannson, acquired by the Sabres on Saturday, hasn’t been much better, earning a 3.79 GAA and still searching for his first win.
As for the Coyotes, their goalie situation is a little bit more palatable. With Darcy Kuemper still day-to-day, Arizona has been going with the veteran Antti Raanta, with Adin Hill serving as his backup. With Raanta drawing the start on Monday, Hill should draw in on Tuesday, as the 24-year old has a 2.78 GAA with a .908 save percentage in five starts.
There are huge questions about Colorado’s goaltender situation, but they could go back to Grubauer if he’s feeling good enough. Assuming they go with either Miska or Johansson, Arizona would then have an excellent opportunity to bounce back and put some pressure on.
However, it won’t be enough. Colorado’s ability to put shots on the net, and more importantly, keep other teams from pounding the net is the difference in this game.
Colorado’s defense should still be more-than-able to hold down an Arizona team that is among one of the league’s worst offenses. Additionally, guys like MacKinnon and Rantanen are playing at such a high level right now, and they will be too much for Arizona’s mediocre defense.
Take the Avs in this one to make it a sweep in the desert.
Pick: Avalanche -215
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