The Arizona Coyotes’ roster this season is much changed from last.
Saturday night’s nailbiter against the Colorado Avalanche had storylines running through it. Anger at Nazem Kadri’s hit on Justin Faulk that knocked Faulk out of the postseason? Saturday night, you had Brayden Schenn challenging Kadri to a fight – and winning. David Perron being out of the postseason due to Covid-19? Perron fixed that with a two goal evening. Lack of scoring being an issue in a playoff series defeat? The Blues potted five goals.
There was something for everyone. Tonight, the Blues play the Arizona Coyotes. You would think that after the stretch of games the two teams saw each other for last season (seven games! Thanks, Covid!) that there should be some bad blood now that the Coyotes have moved to the Central Division.
There is not.
Much of Arizona’s team is new – Oliver Ekman-Larsson is gone, goaltender Darcy Kuemper is gone. This year, their defense is anchored by Shayne Gostisbehere, late of the Philadelphia Flyers, and their goaltending is led by our old friend Carter Hutton. The roster seems to be either grizzled vets or young kids – Phil Kessel is back, along with the addition of Jay Beagle and Andrew Ladd, two guys that I honestly had forgotten didn’t retire yet. Anton Stralman isn’t a spring chicken either, and neither are Antoine Roussel nor Loui Eriksson. The Coyotes would have had an excellent team either five seasons ago or will have one five seasons from now.
That doesn’t mean that the Blues need to sleep on the team widely expected to finish last in the Western Conference. They’re fast, and it’s still early in the season, so that compete level is high. There’s still St. Louisan Clayton Keller to contend with – Keller is one goal away from his 70th, so he should have some pep in his step tonight.
If the Blues sit back against Arizona, they could have some problems – they’re lucky they didn’t have more issues on Saturday in the second and third periods, even against a very depleted Colorado team. The Blues were 3-4-1 against a superior Coyotes team last year, but just because Arizona’s digging into a rebuild isn’t a reason for the Blues to take their feet off of the gas.