The Arizona Coyotes return home following two stops in Western Canada against the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. They were winners in overtime against the Oilers, and followed it up with a loss in overtime against the Flames. The Coyotes leave with a split in games that could have gone either way. Both contests were fairly even, and the Coyotes did enough to get 3 points out of the trip. There’s nothing wrong with collecting 3 points on a back-to-back. With a 3-0 win over the Avalanche on Saturday, the Coyotes have gotten a point in each of their last three outings.
The Coyotes go into Thursday with a record of 9-4-2 and 20 points. They’re only 2 points behind the Edmonton Oilers for the top spot in the Pacific Division. Not bad at all for a team who haven’t had many expectations for the past several years. I would stop ignoring the Coyotes now and begin taking them a bit more seriously, though. They may not have gone to the playoffs last season, but Arizona made some major strides in the right direction. The Yotes finished dead last in the Pacific two years ago, with a record of 29-41-12. A year ago they crossed the .500 mark at 39-35-8. And now they’re on looking up again in 2019-20.
It’s not a fluke in the desert, either. Maybe they don’t get to a point this season where they’re a deep playoff contender, but there is a lot of young talent on this team who continue to get better and develop. So, I’m not expecting a sudden crash for the Coyotes. There will be fluctuations, but all in all, the Coyotes are in a good spot right now. Their brand of hockey isn’t exciting. Most teams like to push the puck and play fast hockey, the Coyotes are more old school in a sense. Sitting on the puck and playing keep away isn’t the most attractive style to watch, but it’s winning them games. They will try to put the Blue Jackets to sleep on Thursday night. Get our free Blue Jackets vs. Coyotes pick below.
Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Arizona Coyotes Pick
The Coyotes don’t allow their opponent to get many opportunities. When the chances are there, they better convert, or the Coyotes are likely going to grind out a win. Pacing the Coyotes has been the timely goaltending of Darcy Kuemper in net. An unlikely Vezina candidate at the start of the season, Kuemper has been stellar in the desert between the pipes. With Raanta entering the season injured, the onus fell on Kuemper to carry the load. He’s done that and much more. Kuemper goes into Thursday night with a stellar 1.69 GAA and 0.94 save percentage in ten games.
The native of Saskatoon has helped the Coyotes allow just 2.27 goals against per game. That’s good for 2nd in the NHL, as they only trail the Islanders in that department. A similar style of play helped the Islanders exceed expectations without John Tavares last season, and the Coyotes are stealing a page out of the Islanders’ book of success. Kuemper has to thoroughly enjoy playing goaltender for a team who stress defence and neutral zone control, but he’s also done a fine job coming up big when they’ve needed him.
To counter the Coyotes’ defensive style, superstars are needed on the other side to break through in the neutral zone. The Blue Jackets said goodbye to a lot of that offensive prowess in the offseason. Artemi Panarin signed with the Rangers, leaving the Blue Jackets without their leading playmaker from 2018-19. His absence has been evident thus far. The Jackets are 30th in the league with 2.33 goals scored per game.
Meetings between the Blue Jackets and Coyotes have tended to be defensive struggles. The UNDER has gone 5-0-1 in their last six games. With the Coyotes employing even more of a defensive identity to their game this season than in the past, expect the Blue Jackets to struggle offensively here. Columbus have scored 2 or fewer goals in three of their previous four meetings and it’s likely the case again tonight. Expect a 3-2 or 3-1 final score, as the Blue Jackets fall right into the Coyotes’ trap in the desert Thursday night.