When a change is made to a team you want to put it up against a team that is rock solid and can be used as a measuring stick. The Phoenix Coyotes underwent some changes this offseason with a few new players and a new head coach in Dave Tippett.
Well Tippett is going to get his first real challenge on Wednesday night when the Coyotes visit the defending Stanley Cup champions at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh. Phoenix has only played one game so far this season when they defeated the Los Angeles Kings 6-3 on Saturday night and will be facing a much more experienced and high powered team in the Penguins.
The Coyotes are starting this season off on a road trip that will take them to Pittsburgh and Buffalo before returning home to Phoenix on Saturday for the home opener.
But this game is a big deal for the team. No doubt they want to make a big impression by taking down Sidney Crosby and the rest of the defending champions. Phoenix actually defeated Pittsburgh last season by a score of 4-1 in Glendale but this is a much different team than that of last year. This season the Coyotes have a structure and system in place that will give them a chance to win every night whether it is against the LA Kings or someone like the Pittsburgh Penguins.
It is this system that will truly be tested when trying to defend Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, and the rest of the potent Penguin offense. Phoenix will need to be firing on all cylinders to get pucks by Marc-Andre Fleury. The power play got a good start against the LA Kings but will need to be a big factor. Pittsburgh will not give you many chances so you need to take advantage of the ones that you do find.
More importantly is limiting your mistakes. The Penguins feed off the mistakes of the other team and taking excessive penalties is where they can be deadly. The Coyotes gave up three power play goals against Los Angeles but were lucky enough to survive. If Phoenix's penalty kill has not improved they will have lost this game before it even started. I am hoping it has since they have had a few practices to work on the strategy and positioning they need to have in place to improve on a penalty kill that was dismal last season.
Ilya Bryzgalov will need to be sharp. Pittsburgh is a high pressure offensive team and will be bombarding the Coyotes defense and net with shots from all angles and directions. The Coyotes staff has said Bryzgalov will have to steal games that Phoenix probably should not win. Well this is one of those. Goaltending coach Sean Burke will look to have his main man ready for a big game.
It is tough to call early games like these big but for this organization it is. Putting up a team which is being questioned by alot of critics against the reigning champions is a good way to measure how well you are doing. I have no idea how this will turn out but am obviously hoping for a Coyotes win.