December 29 2009 12:54PM
The Canucks are looking for a season-high fourth straight victory tonight as they go to the desert to take on the Coyotes in Phoenix.
The Coyotes continue to surprise the entire league as they sit 4th in the Western Conference, and 6th in the entire league. What has been the Coyotes' secret to success? Defense. They are third in the league in goals against (2.20), and are second in the league in 5-on-5 GF/GA at 1.35. They don't score very often, but they sure know how to keep the puck out of the net. More specifically, their goaltender knows how to keep the puck out. Ilya Bryzgalov has been simply brilliant this year so far. The Russian netminder has to be the leading Vezina candidate right now, as he leads the league in shutouts, is second in wins and total time on ice, and tid for third in GAA (2.01).
At the beginning of te season, if you were to ask which goalie would be winning every statistical category in a contest between Luongo and Bryzgalov, I'm sure NOBODY would have picked Bryzgalov. However, that is the case. The Canucks captain comes into this game as the second best goalie in pretty much every measurable goalie stat. However, the same was true when the Canucks faced the Flames two nights ago, and the best statistical goalie on that night got shelled early and pulled before the start of the 2nd period. So the Canucks would love for the same fate to befall the Coyotes tonight.
Another secret to the success in Phoenix is to score first. When the Coyotes score first, their winning percentage is a staggering 0.857. So their game plan appears to be score first and let Bryzgalov steal the show. When they lead after the first period, their record is even better at 0.923.
For the Canucks, they need to get Phoenix away from their game plan. Make them come back from being down early. Since they are a team that doesn't score very often, it will be difficult for them to score enough goals to come from behind.
There are a couple of interesting storylines involving individual players coming into tonight's game. First is Taylor Pyatt, who faces his former club for the first time since joining the Coyotes in the summer. Pyatt is having a respectable campaign so far, with 10 points, but he leads the Coyotes in +/- at a stellar +12, which also puts him in the top 20 in the league. It will likely be an emotional night for him as he faces his former teammates.
The other interesting storyline involves a current Canuck, as Vancouver placed Mathieu Schneider on waivers today, after failing to trade the aging defenceman over the last month. Schneider didn't make a significant impact with the club, with only 5 points and an even +/- over 17 games. The Canucks defence is healthy and stable right now, leaving Schneider out in the cold.
As the Canucks face the Coyotes tonight, Vancouver is one of the hottest clubs in the league. They have won three straight and 7 of 9. They look for their first four-game winning streak of the season and aim to continue their success as they play the Coyotes for the first time this season.