Therefore, my dear Edmontonians, as you have always attended games - not only during winning seasons, but also during losing seasons - continue to attend the games with fear and trembling, for it is God who will decide if Edmonton remains worthy as the location for his chosen team. Yes, you must continue to cheer the team on and spend your money without complaint or argument so that God will see you as pure and blameless through all of the team's struggles. Being a businessman myself, I know that this is a crooked and depraved generation with many looking out for their own interests instead of the common good. But you Edmonotonians will shine like the stars in the sky as you hold open your wallets so that on the coming day of God's judgment I will know that I did not buy this team without reason. In fact, I was glad to purchase this team for the good of Edmonton and am happy to rejoice with you; I can only hope that you Edmontonians will be glad to rejoice with me as we build a world-class city together.
Phoenix Coyotes (25-14-4) @ Edmonton Oilers (16-22-4)
Rexall Place, 7:00 PM MST
Television: The Juniors are on TSN
More analysis after the jump...
Visiting Team Scouting Report: The Coyotes have been one of the most surprising teams of the season. I certainly didn't expect them to have such a strong record and, if they did have a strong record, I wouldn't have expected their underlying numbers to support it. But they've done it. The team is particularly good at EV where they've outscored opponents 76-57 (+19). They're PDO number is favourable but not crazy (101.0) and they've managed to outshoot and outCorsi their opponents both overall and even moreso when the game has been close. Tyler Dellow's recent post shows that the Coyotes' improvement is coming entirely in the area of goals against where the Coyotes are on pace to improve by 60 goals over last season's performance. This difference is coming entirely at EV. Last season the Coyotes allowed over 170 EV goals against and this season they're on pace for 108. Some of the difference is save percentage. Coyote goaltenders (mostly Ilya Bryzgalov) are simply stopping more pucks this year than they did a year ago. But the improvement from .917 to .936 only accounts for about half of the difference. The other half is improved shot ratio but, interestingly, this improves on both sides of the puck. Whereas a year ago the Coyotes were outshot at EV (in 80 games, somehow two of the games didn't come through) 25.0 to 21.3 this season the Coyotes are outshooting their opponents at EV 23.0 to 20.7. In addition to flipping the ratio the Coyotes have also limited the shots at both ends of the ice.
The crazy thing is, although they've made a lot of changes from this year when compared to last year not many of them seem like impact players. In goal they added Jason LaBarbera as the backup goaltender. On defence they've been without Kurt Sauer because of injury this season, traded away Derek Morris last season and elected not to bring back Ken Klee or David Hale over the summer. Those four have been replaced by Jim Vandermeer, Adrian Aucoin, Sami Lepisto and Anders Eriksson. If anything the second group looks worse! At forward the Coyotes totally revamped. They added Lombardi, Upshall and Prucha at last year's trade deadline and brought in Vrbata, Fiddler, Lang, Korpikoski and Pyatt over the summer. They compensated for this by putting guys like Turris and Boedker in the minors and sending off some of the vets they had the year before. They also hired a new coach in Dave Tippett. Given the guys they brought in, who do we credit for this massive turnaround? It doesn't really look like luck, they weren't particularly unlucky the year before and among the guys they brought in there isn't one guy who is really considered a star let alone a superstar. Is it mostly Tippett? Were some of the kids below replacement a year ago? Are Matt Lombardi, Radim Vrbata and Robert Lang the most underrated players in the league? What's going on?
Edmonton Oilers (16-22-4):
Penner - Gagner - Nilsson
Jacques - Horcoff - Brule
Stone - Potulny - O'Sullivan
Moreau - Cogliano - Stortini
Souray - Gilbert
Smid - Staios
Grebeshkov - Strudwick
Phoenix Coyotes (25-14-4):
Upshall - Lombardi - Doan
Vrbata - Hanzal - Prucha
Pyatt - Lang - Mueller
Korpikoski - Porter - Hoggan
Michalek - Jovanovski
Yandle - Aucoin
Eriksson - Lepisto
Behind The Numbers:
- Sam Gagner needs just one point to tie Stan Weir for 51st on the Oilers' all time list. Since Gagner joined the Oilers two and a half years ago only Dustin Penner and Ales Hemsky have scored more points.
- Since Ales Hemsky has knocked out of the lineup against Los Angeles, Dustin Penner has scored two points on the power play and hasn't recorded a power play point in fourteen consecutive games. The story at EV is a bit better. Before Hemsky's season-ending injury Penner was a +12 in 25 games (though Hemsky missed three of them). Since he's been out of the lineup Penner is +1 at EV in 17 games which is still pretty darn good on this team! Hilariously, this is the exact opposite of his shot results. In the first 25 games he was outshot 163-162 but had a PDO number of 107.5. In the second 17 games he's outshot his opponents 142-105 but has a PDO number of 98.0 with big downturns in both on-ice save and on-ice shooting percentages.
- Dustin Penner has taken 122 shots on the season. This compares very favourably to his previous seasons on a per game basis. So far Penner has had seasons of 2.49, 2.45 and 1.67 shots per game. This season he's on pace for 2.90. The improvement is less impressive on a per minute basis where he's already had seasons of .178, .142 and .114 shots per minute. This season he's on pace for .148. I would guess these numbers are largely dependent on how much power play time he's received in each season.
- So far in his career Sam Gagner is 8/30 in shoot-outs attempts including 0/5 this season. He must be impressive in practice though because only Patrick O'Sullivan (4/8 this year) has been used more often this year.