The NHL season is back in full gear as Thursday night is packed in action. Ten games will be up on the board throughout January 14. One of these games will be between the San Jose Sharks and the Arizona Coyotes. These two teams will look to start this season strong after much different finishes last season. This game will drop the puck at around 9:00 PM Eastern time.
San Jose finished out last season with a record of 29-36-5, which had them sitting in eighth place of the Pacific Division. The Sharks had a major letdown season, after many expected them to be a competitor in the playoffs. San Jose still has hope to bounce back this season, but will need a lot of players to step up. I expect the Sharks to try and come out strong in this one.
The Coyotes finished out last season with a record of 33-29-8, which had them in fifth place of the Pacific Division. Arizona met up with the Nashville Predators in the qualifiers and knocked them out in four games. The Coyotes were bounced in the first round to the Colorado Avalanche though. Arizona will look to find some hope early this season after a rough offseason.
These two teams will look to come out strong in a season that the expectations are low. The Coyotes were the better team last season, but could have a big fall this season. Arizona will look to keep up the pace though as they try to earn a playoff spot in the West division. The Sharks also have a chance to bounce back and will look to make the most out of a fast start.
The Sharks and the Coyotes met up three times throughout last season. The first meeting was in Arizona on November 30. Nick Schmaltz and Derek Stepan gave the Coyotes a 2-0 lead early, but San Jose came storming back. Logan Couture scored twice, while Tomas Hertl had two assists. Martin Jones turned away 21 of 23 shots as the Sharks earned a 4-2 win.
The second meeting of the season series shifted to San Jose on December 17. Tomas Hertl scored two goals for the Sharks, but it was not enough this time. Carl Soderberg, Derek Stepan and Oliver Ekman-Larsson all scored for the Coyotes. Darcy Kuemper stopped 26 of 28 shots to help lead Arizona to a nice 3-2 win on the road.
The final meeting of the season series went back to Arizona on January 14. Evander Kane and Kevin Labanc each scored a goal and an assist to help the Sharks. It once again was not enough though. Taylor Hall and Phil Kessel both had two goals and an assist. Conor Garland and Derek Stepan both had three points as well as the Coyotes finished off the season series with a 6-3 win.
Arizona was able to win two of the three games in last season’s series. I expect both teams to try and come out strong in this one to earn an early leg up in the series. San Jose is coming off a disappointing season and they will look to bounce back. The Sharks will need to win games early in the season after a tough start to last season if they want to get back into postseason contention.
San Jose had a nice offseason since last playing. The Sharks picked up Devan Dubnyk, Ryan Donato, Matt Nieto and Patrick Marleau. This helps address the depth issues for San Jose’s lineup. The addition of Devan Dubnyk could also help the goaltending issues. Neither Dubnyk nor Martin Jones had a good season last season, but they could flourish in a split role.
The Coyotes had a key loss at the beginning of free agency. Arizona lost Taylor Hall to the Buffalo Sabres. The Coyotes were able to address depth issues with the additions of Tyler Pitlick, Johan Larsson, Ilya Lyubushkin, Derick Brassard and Drake Caggiula. Arizona will need players to step up with Hall gone and Phil Kessel not getting any younger.
These two teams were able to add solid depth players throughout free agency, but neither team had a splash to really excite. The Sharks will look to come out hot in this series as they look for a win with their lineup. San Jose still has some talent up and down the roster and if they can get some early season chemistry going, they could bounce back after a forgettable season.
Martin Jones will likely get the nod in the crease for this game on Thursday night. Jones finished last season with a record of 17-21-2 throughout last season. He posted a save percentage of .896 and a 3.00 GAA through those starts. Jones will need to improve heavily this season in the save percentage category if the Sharks want to bounce back this season.
Darcy Kuemper will get the start in the net for the Coyotes in the season opener. Kuemper put up a record of 16-11-2. He finished the regular season with a .928 save percentage and a GAA of 2.22 to help Arizona reach the qualifiers. Kuemper put up a save percentage of .913 and a 3.47 GAA through the postseason last season.
The Coyotes have the edge at the goaltending position in this one. Arizona has Kuemper, who is coming off a fantastic regular season. If Kuemper can stay healthy throughout this season, it could help give the Coyotes a chance. San Jose needs Jones to step up this season if they want to bounce back. Jones will have a great chance to earn a statement win in this one.
The Sharks are coming into this game after a very disappointing season, which I think will motivate them to come out stronger in this one. San Jose is on the road in this one, but have been practicing in Arizona due to their closures. I think the Sharks will be able to come out strong on offense in this one and knock off an offense depleted Coyotes team.
BetOnline has Arizona listed as a -123 against the money line. This implies that the Coyotes will win this game around 55.2 percent of the time. I do not agree with this line. I think that these two teams are very similar coming into this season, which should be closer to even. I like San Jose to come out faster in this one to earn a win on opening night.