Diamond Dogs: Blues at Phoenix Coyotes Preview

"Man, what I wouldn't do for some T-Ravs and a good pork steak about now" - Rick Stewart

New Toys For The Boys In Blue

Well, if nothing else, we get relief from all of the trade speculation stories. On Friday, GM Doug Armstrong pulled the trigger on the deal that sent Jaroslav Halak and Chris Stewart (plus a prospect and picks) to Buffalo for Ryan Miller and (sigh) ... Steve Ott. The fine print on the deal includes Buffalo retaining the difference in salary between Miller and Halak, and also includes a condition on one pick: a 2015 3rd-round pick becomes a 2014 1st-round pick if the Blues either make the Western Conference Final or if they re-sign Miller before the 2014 Draft. While I'd have been happier by paying less and not picking up Ott, overall it's a pretty good deal for both teams. Although Ryan Miller is 33, there are certainly some golden years left in him. The short-term benefit is obvious for the Blues: while Miller's raw numbers don't look much different than Halak's, where the Blues really gain is in consistency and in an ability to stay healthy (nojinxnojinxnojinx).

Tonight we get to take these new additions out for their first road test. It's a safe bet that Ryan Miller will be hunky dory with his situation. The last two games notwithstanding, the Blues average 3.14 goals per game while the Sabres were league-worst at 1.90 goals per game. Once the current slump gets busted, Miller will enjoy over a goal-per-game more in goal support than what he was getting. That, and a metric shit-ton in better defensive play in front of him (2nd-worst shots allowed per game to 2nd-best). I'm pretty sure metric shit-ton is the #fancystat term. Also, per team media tweets, the Blues will play Steve Ott on a line with T.J. Oshie and Derek Roy. Until something better comes along, I'm already christening them the STD Line (Steve/Tj/Derek). I'm still dealing with a great deal of mixed emotions about Steve Ott wearing our jersey. At least he can score a little, and he's decent at faceoffs (just ask him). They don't have to be heroes, they just need to be able to contribute to an already-good team.

Aside from changes to the Blues lineup, the Phoenix Coyotes have problems of their own. They've lost 3 in a row, and are 4-4-2 in their last ten games. There's quite a logjam for the second wildcard slot, and right now the Coyotes are on the outside of the playoff bubble. In the statistical categories mentioned above, the Coyotes are middle of the pack in offense (2.66 goals for per game), but are 24th in the league with 32.1 shots allowed per game. Those shots getting on goal has put Mike Smith under pressure to carry the team. In 50 games played, he has posted a 20-17-10 record and a 2.75 GAA / .913 Sv% stat line. The backup, Thomas Greiss, has a 7-5-1 record while putting up a 2.25 GAA and .927 Sv%. I'd say it's a pretty safe bet that Mike Smith gets the start tonight.

On the offensive side of things for the Coyotes, they are led in overall points by Mike Ribeiro (14g, 27a) with 41 points. Right behind is Radim Vrbata with 40 points (15g, 25a). Keith Yandle (7g, 32a) and Mikkel Boedker (15g, 24a) both have 39 points, and then there's the leading goal scorer Antoine Vermette (21 goals, 16 assists). Further down the list, but worth watching out for, is future Norris Trophy winner Oliver Ekman-Larsson . As a team, they are hovering at the 50% Fenwick mark in 5vs5 play, and just under it when the score is close. In the tough Western conference, that's not usually going to get the job done.

Further Reading:

Five For Howling

#FancyStats for Phoenix (ExtraSkater)

Final Verse: Thankfully, not as late in the day as the previous ones - the opening faceoff is at 7:00 PM St Louis time. The TV broadcast will be on Fox Sports MW, and the radio call will be on KMOX 1120 AM. The GDT should drop shortly before the puck does. Until then, this is your pregame warmup. Gather here, celebrate the Miller trade, learn to tolerate the Steve Ott inclusion, and ponder how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Canadien ...


LGB!!!

-CrossCheckRaise

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