Desert dogs: Kraken vs Coyotes preview

Matty Beniers skates with the puck ahead of an Arizona Coyotes player. Matty is in a home navy jersey while the Coyotes player is in their white away jerseys
Jennthulhu Photography

The Need To Knows

The Time: 7:00pm PT / 10:00 pm ET

The Place: Mullett Arena, Tempe, AZ

Place to Watch: ROOT-NW, BSAZX, ESPN+ and Sportsnet+ for out of market

Place to Listen: KJR 93.3fm

Know Your Enemy

This is the third time in five games that the Kraken are due to face the Arizona Coyotes. I think I said this once in a previous preview piece, but I’m only further convinced now that the NHL is using the Kraken as a test for a baseball-style series kind of scheduling. If the Kraken play a team once, they seem to turn around and play them again immediately.

However, thanks to some technical difficulties in migrating our website to a new platform — and thank you all for staying patient with us through it — we haven’t actually had a chance to truly write about what kind of opponent the Coyotes are yet!

If it wasn’t obvious from watching the Kraken defeat them by an 8-1 score on April 3 and then a 4-2 score on April 6, the Coyotes are a bottom feeder team once again this season. They sit 27th in the league, which is actually higher than I wanted to give them credit for. After all, this is a team that got kicked out of its home arena and is relying on the hospitality of Arizona State University. Without them, I’m not even sure the Coyotes get to have a season this year. While I’ve heard that the games at Mullett Arena are actually a fun atmosphere, losing an NHL-caliber arena like they did shows exactly what level of organizational incompetence is behind this franchise.

The Coyotes do have one diamond in the rough in Clayton Keller. He has 37 goals and 48 assists for 85 points total on the season. Nick Schmaltz’s 56 points and Barrett Hayton’s 43 points are also pretty respectable. Yet, as you start to dig deeper into Arizona’s roster, it becomes clear that there’s just not that much firepower on this squad.

Arizona’s special teams aren’t much to write home about either. Their 19.5% power play percentage is 22nd in the league and their 75.2% penalty kill percentage is 26th in the league (though they’re both marginally better when at home than away).

Mostly, the Coyotes are a team that are just trying to stay afloat.

Game Preview

If you haven’t heard the news yet, the Seattle Kraken are in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It almost makes the final stretch of games feel a bit meaningless. Does winning this game matter if the Kraken are in the playoffs regardless?

Well, the answer is “yes.” First off, winning begets more winning. Sometimes the playoffs aren’t always about which team has the best regular-season record. It can often matter more to look at which teams are riding a hot streak into the postseason. Secondly, now the Kraken are playing for playoff positioning.

The Kraken currently sit with 98 points in the top Wild Card spot with three games left to play. Because of the distance they have on the Jets, they cannot fall lower than that. However they could climb higher. The LA Kings are third in the Pacific Division with 100 points and only two games left to play. If the Kraken sweep these last three games, they will finish higher than the Kings in the standings regardless of how LA plays in their final games. Additionally, it would narrow the Kraken’s first round playoff opponent to just those teams within their own division. If they finish out in that Wild Card spot, because of the way Wild Card and divisional seeding works, the Kraken would most likely be playing a Central Division division team instead. That’s a lot to play for!

As for which Kraken players to expect to come up big against the Coyotes, the honest answer is that it could be any of them. In the April 3 matchup, the Kraken had seven unique goal scorers while 16 players total recorded a point. One of those points was even an assist from Philipp Grubauer! However, in the playoff-clinching win on April 6, all of the points came from the Kraken’s top-four point-getters: Jared McCann, Vince Dunn, Jordan Eberle, and Matty Beniers. It’s honestly never a bad choice to predict for any of them to get on the board.

Eberle especially is riding the hot hand. He has a four-game goal streak, and he’ll be looking for the first five-game streak of his NHL career. McCann also has been feasting on the Coyotes with three goals against them in their past two matchups.

One final storyline going into tonight’s game is that Joey Daccord has been called up on an emergency-basis from the Coachella Valley Firebirds. Remember what I said about the Coyotes playing at Arizona State University’s arena? Well, Daccord is an alumni of the Sun Devils hockey team. It would be an amazing full-circle moment for him if he got the start in this game.