Radim Vrbata might be one of the quietest 30-goal scorer in the NHL but his impact won’t slip under the San Jose Sharks’ radars. Vrbata scored his 31st and 32nd tallies to power the Phoenix Coyotes’ 2-0 win, bumping the ‘Yotes to seventh place in the West and dumping the Sharks to ninth.
Mike Smith and Ryan Whitney also had nights to remember. Smith collected his third shutout of the season against the Sharks alone while Whitney’s two assists park him at 999 career regular season points.
Impact on Coyotes, Sharks
With all the talk of Quebec, many wonder how many games the Coyotes have left in Phoenix. Winning games like these greatly increases its chances of at least adding some playoff contests to the possible “farewell tour.”
While the Coyotes are making the most of things, the Sharks continue to make life more difficult for themselves. After dropping one of the relatively “easy” games by losing to the Anaheim Ducks last night. It also carries on a worst-case scenario trend of defeats in regulation as four straight letdowns didn’t even result in a charity point, which seems downright required in the skin-tight stretch run.
Sports Club Stats paints a grim picture for the Sharks. The three Pacific Division teams ahead of them have at least an 81.1 percent chance to make the postseason – now with the Coyotes leading the way at 83.6 percent – while San Jose’s odds dropped 19.2 percent to just 44.9 percent.
Plenty of opportunities for change
All those numbers don’t matter as much as the raw results, obviously, which is a good and a bad thing for the Sharks. They’re four remaining games are a home-and-home against the Stars and a home-and-home against the Kings. Ultimately, San Jose can turn things around by putting things together in the final four contests.
Phoenix doesn’t have its future in its hands quite the same to degree, so they’ll probably hope San Jose sticks to playing in two-point games. The Coyotes host Anaheim and Columbus before two road games who have little to play for for very different reasons (St. Louis and Minnesota).
It all looks much better for the Coyotes – and really the Stars and Kings – but the schedule and small room for error just-about guarantee a photo finish.
NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2015-16 campaign tonight when the Detroit Red Wings host the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:30 p.m. ET. You can stream the game online here.
The Lightning made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in 2015, but their journey almost ended in the first round at the hands of the Red Wings. Detroit shutout Tampa Bay twice in that series and the two squads were locked in a scoreless tie until the third period of Game 7.
Despite the fact that the Red Wings were a mere hair away from advancing instead of Tampa Bay, the Lightning are often mentioned as serious Cup contenders while Detroit is typically regarded as a good, but not amazing team. However, that gap isn’t entirely unjustified.
After all, Tampa Bay has a very effective core of forwards that features Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, and Ondrej Palat. If the highly regarded Jonathan Drouin, 20, is able to build off of his strong start to the 2015-16 campaign then the Lightning’s offense could be even more dangerous this season.
Detroit certainly has some offensive star power too in Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, but the duo is 35 and 37 years old respectively. On top of that, injuries have been a recurring issue for Datsyuk, who isn’t expected to make his season debut until November after undergoing ankle surgery.
As good as those two forwards still are, the Red Wings have to hope that their younger players will be able to lead the charge sooner rather than later. The good news is that 19-year-old Dylan Larkin‘s campaign is off to a strong start with three points in two games while 23-year-old Teemu Pulkkinen scored twice on Saturday.
The Red Wings have opened the season with back-to-back wins against Toronto and Carolina, but tonight’s game represents their biggest test to date. Meanwhile, the Lightning are similarly undefeated after three games, but this contest will be particularly trying for them given that it’s their third game in four days.
PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.
Although Connor McDavid‘s NHL career has only just gotten started, is he already the league’s most important player? (Sportsnet)
While we’re on the subject of McDavid, what should we expect from him for the remainder of his rookie campaign? (NHL Numbers)
Jack Jablonski was paralyzed on Dec. 30, 2011 at the age of 16 while playing high school hockey, but that hasn’t ended his pursuit of a career in hockey. He’s spent the last two years hosting a weekly hockey-talk radio program and has now joined the Los Angeles Kings as a communications intern. (Orange County Register)
Arizona State has earned its first NCAA victory. (Arizona Republic)
The 2015 Calder Cup champion Manchester Monarchs got their rings. (LA Kings Insider)
The Anaheim Ducks and the Make-A-Wish Foundation gave 13-year-old Kai Quinonez, who was diagnosed with aplastic anemia four years ago, a tremendous experience. (Orange County Register)