Coyotes Weekly: Moving in the Right Direction

That’s more like it.

After struggling badly to score goals during the season’s first three weeks, the Arizona Coyotes finally broke out on the offensive end of the ice during Week 4. They lit the lamp 11 times in three games and picked up four points along the way.

As we discussed last week, the traditional statistics and advanced metrics both favor the Coyotes this season, and it looks like the offense is finally catching up with the team’s sterling defense and goaltending. Can they keep it up on home ice this week?

Coyotes Week in Review

After getting their four-game road trip started with a 2-1 loss in St. Paul, Minnesota on Tuesday, Oct. 16, the Coyotes headed to the United Center to take on the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night. With Antti Raanta in net, who entered the game with a 15-0-3 record on United Center ice, the Coyotes dominated – buoyed by goals from Lawson Crouse and former Blackhawk Vinnie Hinostroza, Arizona held a 2-1 lead after two periods. Clayton Keller then added the dagger late in the third period after an offensive-zone turnover by Chris Kunitz, and Hinostroza provided the empty-netter for the cherry on top in a 4-1 ‘Yotes victory.

Following their big W in the Windy City, the Coyotes headed north of the border to take on the Winnipeg Jets. Bell MTS Place has been a house of horrors for the Coyotes in recent years – Arizona has earned zero victories in nine tries in Winnipeg since the Atlanta Thrashers relocated following the 2010-11 season, and things weren’t any different on Saturday afternoon. After opening the scoring in the first period, the Coyotes yielded five of the next seven goals and dropped a 5-3 decision. It was a solid effort from Rick Tocchet’s squad, but close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades – the ‘Yotes will have to wait until next season for their next opportunity to end the streak.

Arizona then headed back stateside for the finale of their roadie on Tuesday night in Columbus. In town since Saturday evening, the well-rested Coyotes appeared to be a little too rested early in the game – Pierre-Luc Dubois scored on the first shift of the game just 31 seconds in to give the Blue Jackets an early 1-0 lead. Arizona responded quickly, though – Christian Fischer added his first of the night at 7:08 to tie the game, and Dylan Strome scored a power-play goal at 12:23 to give the Coyotes a 2-1 lead. Fischer then scored on the first shift of the second period to give the ‘Yotes a 3-1 lead, and he potted his third of the night early on in the third frame to earn his first career hat trick in a 4-1 Arizona victory.

A Look Ahead

After picking up four points during their four-game roadie, the Coyotes will return home for a five-game homestand, which will begin on Thursday night against the Vancouver Canucks. Following the retirement of the Sedin twins, the Canucks weren’t expected to do much this season, but Vancouver has surprised a bit with five wins in nine games thus far. However, their defense and goaltending has been suspect as of late – can the Coyotes break out and make the Gila River Arena goal horn guy do some work for the first time this season? Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 P.M. in Glendale.

Elias Pettersson
There’s a chance that the injured Elias Pettersson could play on Thursday in Glendale. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

The 5-1-1 Tampa Bay Lightning will then come to town on Saturday night for their first and only visit to Arizona in 2018-19. Led by the high-scoring trio of Brayden Point, Yanni Gourde, and J.T. Miller, who are all tied for the team lead in points with eight in seven games, the Lightning once again are one of the league’s highest-scoring teams in 2018-19. How much better will they be when Steven Stamkos heats up? This one will get started at 6:00 P.M. at Gila River Arena.

In the final game of the week, the Coyotes will host yet another surprising Canadian team in the Ottawa Senators. Like the Canucks, Ottawa wasn’t expected to compete this season after losing Mike Hoffman and Erik Karlsson, but they’re hanging tough with a 4-3-1 record through eight games. Maybe general manager Pierre Dorion had it right when he said that the Senators were “a team.” Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 P.M. out on Phoenix’s west side.

DeMelo Boedker Chabot Senators
Thomas Chabot, Dylan DeMelo, and Mikkel Boedker are off to outstanding starts in Ottawa. (Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)

Pacific Division Roundup

After three weeks, the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks find themselves in a tie for first place in the Pacific. Overall, though, no team in the Pacific has really distinguished itself yet – could this be the year that the Coyotes find their way back to the postseason?

Anaheim Ducks (5-4-1, 11 points)

  • Last week: 1-3-0 (4-1 W vs NYI, 3-1 L at VGK, 4-2 L vs BUF, 3-1 L at CHI)
  • Analysis: Since their 3-0-1 start, the Ducks have fallen on hard times – they’re 2-4-1 since Oct. 10 and the main reason for their struggles clearly is their staggeringly bad shot differential. Anaheim averages 23.9 shots per night, which is worst in the league, and they’re allowing 37.9 shots against per game, also the worst total in the league. I’m no NHL head coach, but this probably isn’t what bench boss Randy Carlyle wants to see.
  • Player of the week: Rickard Rakell – Goal, 2 assists, 10 shots
  • This week: Thu at DAL, Sun vs SJ, Tue vs PHI

Calgary Flames (5-4-0, 10 points)

  • Last week: 2-2-0 (5-2 W vs BOS, 5-3 L vs NSH, 4-1 W at NYR, 3-2 L at MTL)
  • Analysis: The Flames continue to pile up goals at a high rate, but they’re also allowing goals at a high rate, too. Unless they can be more consistent night in and night out, Calgary will continue to hover around the .500 mark as the season progresses.
  • Player of the week: Matthew Tkachuk – 2 goals, 3 assists, +2
  • This week: Thu vs PIT, Sat vs WSH, Mon at TOR, Tue at BUF
Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary Flames, Fantasy Hockey
Matthew Tkachuk is off to a great start in Calgary. (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

Edmonton Oilers (3-3-1, 7 points)

  • Last week: 1-1-1 (3-2 OTW vs BOS, 3-0 L vs NSH, 6-5 OTL vs PIT)
  • Analysis: We’ve said it before but we’ll say it again – Connor McDavid can’t do this all by himself. He’s certainly trying, but the Oilers are playing him 24:34 a night – nearly 1:30 more than any other forward in the NHL. The last forward to average at least 24 minutes of ice time per game was Ilya Kovalchuk in 2011-12 (24:26 per night) – will McDavid be able to keep up his ridiculous scoring pace, or will he wear down as the marathon NHL schedule unfolds?
  • Player of the week: Connor McDavid – Goal, 3 assists, 12 shots
  • This week: Thu vs WSH, Sat at NSH, Sun at CHI, Tue vs MIN

Los Angeles Kings (2-6-1, 5 points)

  • Last week: 0-3-0 (7-2 L vs NYI, 5-1 L vs BUF, 4-2 L at DAL)
  • Analysis: The Kings’ losing streak has now reached five games, with all losses coming in regulation. They’ve been outscored 25-7 during the streak and rank in the bottom five in the league in both power play percentage and penalty kill percentage for the season. What does all of that mean? Unless head coach John Stevens can work some magic, it’s going to be a long year at the Staples Center.
  • Player of the week: Drew Doughty – Goal, 3 assists
  • This week: Thu at MIN, Sun vs NYR
John Stevens
Could John Stevens be on the hot seat if the Kings’ slide continues? (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

San Jose Sharks (5-3-1, 11 points)

  • Last week: 3-0-0 (5-1 W vs BUF, 4-1 W vs NYI, 5-4 W at NSH)
  • Analysis: After struggling through the first seven games of the Erik Karlsson era, the Sharks appear to have figured things out offensively. They scored 14 goals in three games last week and are starting to get rolling. Watch out – this is a dangerous team.
  • Player of the week: Logan Couture – 4 goals, 3 assists, +2, 12 shots
  • This week: Fri at CAR, Sun at ANA, Tue vs NYR
Logan Couture - Sharks
Logan Couture was unstoppable last week for the Sharks. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Vancouver Canucks (5-4-0, 10 points)

  • Last week: 1-2-0 (4-1 L at WPG, 2-1 OTW vs BOS, 5-2 L vs WSH)
  • Analysis: After doing his best brick wall impersonation against Tampa Bay, Florida, and Pittsburgh from Oct. 11 through Oct. 16, Canucks goaltender Anders Nilsson looked quite vulnerable against the Jets and Capitals last week, as he allowed four goals on 32 shots in each of his two starts. Vancouver needs some consistency in net – shaky goaltending from Nilsson and Jacob Markstrom was the downfall of the team last season. Will the team’s failure to bring in a reliable goaltender cost them again this year?
  • Player of the week: Bo Horvat – 2 goals, assist, +1, 8 shots
  • This week: Wed at VGK, Thu at AZ, Sat vs PIT, Mon vs MIN

Vegas Golden Knights (4-4-0, 8 points)

  • Last week: 1-0-0 (3-1 W vs ANA)
  • Analysis: Vegas had just one game last week, but they made the most of it, as they outshot the Ducks 45-18 en route to a Saturday night victory at T-Mobile Arena. Don’t look now, but the Golden Knights have won three straight – it certainly looks like things are once again coming together in Sin City.
  • Player of the week: Jonathan Marchessault – Goal, assist, +1, 8 shots
  • This week: Wed vs VAN, Fri vs TB, Sun vs OTT, Tue at NSH