The Arizona Coyotes have played reasonably well over their past few games but have very little to show for it. They’re in the midst of a three game losing streak that has been as much a function of bad luck as any type of poor play. Three straight losses by a single goal with one coming in overtime at Calgary. They’ve since lost home games against Columbus and Minnesota and now embark on a very tough three game road trip with games at Washington, St. Louis and Minnesota. Before this three game slump the Coyotes had won 8 of 10 and looked like a potential surprise contender in the Western Conference. They’re still well poised to be a factor in the playoff hunt as the top six teams in the Pacific Division are separated by a total of six points.
The Washington Capitals have been downright devastating lately. Their defense and goaltending hasn’t been great but they’re scoring goals in buckets and most importantly winning hockey games. Washington looked very ordinary as they opened the season with a 3-2-2 record after 7 games. They haven’t lost in regulation since then and enter this game having won 6 straight. Going back even further they’re 10-0-1 in the last 11 games. The Caps special teams have been excellent ranking in the top 10 in both penalty kill and power play. They’ve got the top team offense in hockey at this juncture averaging 4.06 goals per game making them the only team in the NHL putting up an average of 4+ goals. The team defense hasn’t been as impressive but have shown improvement–they’re tied with Toronto at #19 on the table allowing 3.06 goals per game. Even with that relatively pedestrian goals against average the Caps’ offense has propelled them to a 1.00 differential, second best in the NHL.
Arizona’s stats aren’t quite as impressive–at least on offense. They’re #20 in team offense at 2.82 goals per game. Where the Coyotes have excelled is team defense–they’re tied for the second best team goals against average in hockey allowing just 2.41 per contest. The Coyotes power play has struggled ranking #20 hitting on 16.7% of man advantage situations. The penalty kill hasn’t done much either ranking #22 with a success rate of 78.4%.
One of the toughest challenges for any sports handicapper is knowing when to jump in against a team on a long winning streak (or to play on a team on a losing streak). Arizona is the type of team that we’d like to use against the Capitals but not with this scheduling situation. Arizona has a huge game on deck tomorrow against Western Conference leading St. Louis and that is likely a bigger deal to them than this non-conference game even if it is against the top team in the East. More significantly, no interest in jumping in front of the Capitals freight train while they’re playing this well. We’ll back the Caps and look for this one to go ‘Over’ the total. Caps ‘Over’ in 10 of 11 during their winning streak.