The NHL is set up with another action packed day of hockey on Saturday. Ten games are up on the board throughout January 16. One of these games will be between the San Jose Sharks and the Arizona Coyotes. These two teams will meet in the second game of a back to back. Both teams will look to earn a win in this one as the season opens. This game will drop the puck at around 4:00 PM Eastern time on NHL Network.
San Jose finished out last season with a record of 29-36-5, which had them finish in eighth place of the Pacific Division. The Sharks struggled heavily in a season that they were expected to contend in. I expect San Jose to come out hot in this one as they try to go up 2-0 to open up this season. The Sharks had a fast start in the first game, but nearly blew it in the end.
The Coyotes earned a record of 33-29-8 throughout last season, which put them in fifth place of the Pacific Division. Arizona eliminated the Nashville Predators in the qualifying round of the playoffs, but were knocked out by the Avalanche in the first round. The Coyotes took a tough loss in a shootout in Game 1 and will look to bounce back.
These two teams will meet up plenty throughout this season, but the opening series will help set the pace. San Jose had a firm hold in the first matchup, but gave it away as time expired. The Sharks were able to earn a win at the end of the night, but they will look to dominate early again in this one. I expect Arizona to try and bring in some momentum they started to gain at the end of the matchup.
The Sharks and the Coyotes met up three times throughout last season. Arizona hosted the first game of the season series on November 30. Nick Schmaltz and Derek Stepan scored for the Coyotes, but it was not enough. Logan Couture had two goals, while Tomas Hertl had two assists on the night. Martin Jones turned away 21 of 23 shots to help give San Jose a 4-2 win.
The second game of the season series shifted to San Jose on December 17. Tomas Hertl scored twice for the Sharks on the night, but this time San Jose came up short. Carl Soderberg, Derek Stepan and Oliver Ekman-Larsson all scored for the Coyotes. Darcy Kuemper stopped 26 of the 28 shots against him as Arizona earned a 3-2 win.
The Coyotes hosted the final game of the season series on January 14. Evander Kane and Kevin Labanc both had a goal and an assist to help out San Jose, but once again the Sharks came up short. Taylor Hall and Phil Kessel both had two goals and an assist on the night. Conor Garland and Derek Stepan both had three points as well for the Coyotes. Arizona finished with a 6-3 win to finish off the season series.
The first game of this season’s series was on Thursday night. Conor Garland and Clayton Keller both had a goal and an assist, while Jakob Chychrun had two assists. Tomas Hertl had two goals and an assist, while Evander Kane had a goal and two assists. Arizona was down 3-1 with less than four minutes, but scored twice to send it to overtime. San Jose pulled off the 4-3 win though with Ryan Donato and Logan Couture scoring in the shootout.
San Jose’s power play was poor throughout last season, but their penalty kill stayed strong. The Sharks were able to score 33 goals on 189 power play attempts, which was a 17.5 percent success rate on the season. San Jose killed off 192 of the 224 power plays against them, which was an 85.8 percent kill rate. The Sharks will look to build upon that penalty kill this season and improve heavily on the power play.
The Coyotes power play last season was a bit below the league average, while their penalty kill was a bit above. Arizona capitalized on 41 of their 214 power play opportunities, which was a 19.2 percent power play rate. The Coyotes gave up 34 power play goals on 197 attempts, which was an 82.7 percent success rate. Arizona will look to improve a bit on both ends of special teams.
These two teams did not have great power plays throughout last season, but will look to change that early in this season. In Thursday night’s game, both teams were able to score a power play goal on four attempts. This gives both teams a solid 25 percent success rate to open up this season. If either team can get on the board on the power play in this one, it could help lead to the win.
I expect Martin Jones to get the start in the net for San Jose on Saturday afternoon. Jones struggled throughout last season, earning a record of 17-21-2. He posted a save percentage of .896 through his starts and a GAA of 3.00. In the opening night game, Jones was able to turn away 34 of 37 shots to help give the Sharks the win.
Darcy Kuemper will likely get the nod in the crease for the Coyotes in this one. Kuemper had a strong season last season, but was riddled with injuries. He finished with a record of 16-11-2. Kumper earned a .928 save percentage and a 2.22 GAA through those games. Kuemper stopped 32 of 35 shots to help Arizona force overtime.
These two goalies had strong opening night performances. Kuemper was the better goalie last season, but Jones will look to bounce back in a big way in this season. The Coyotes are relying heavily on Kuemper to stay healthy if they want to make a playoff push again this season. I expect both goalies to build off Thursday night’s performances coming into this one.
Arizona is coming off this one after a heartbreaking defeat on Thursday night. The Coyotes came all the way back, tying the game with 4 seconds left, but lost in the shootout. I think Arizona can look past that in this one though as they look to tie up the series early. The Coyotes will look to carry that momentum in with Kuemper as they enter Saturday’s game.
BetOnline has Arizona listed as a -124 against the money line in this one. This implies that the Coyotes will win this game around 55.4 percent of the time. I agree with this line as Arizona is at home and will look to bounce back after the loss. If the Coyotes can come out strong like they played in the third period on Thursday, they should be able to knock off San Jose.