“Well, at least we can’t get off to a worse start this year than we did last season.”
This was a common refrain amongst Arizona Coyotes fans during the lead-up to the 2018-19 season. Of course, the ‘Yotes went winless in their first 11 games last year before recording an overtime victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on the penultimate game of October 2017. It would indeed be pretty difficult to reach that level of ineptitude again this season.
However, this year’s squad is threatening to come close. The Coyotes have been shut out three times in five games and have yet to score a goal on home ice, sending two big crowds of 17,125 and 15,304 home shaking their heads.
Sure, the ‘Yotes have three key players in Alex Galchenyuk, Christian Dvorak, and Jakob Chychrun on the shelf with injuries, but facts are facts – this team is spending a ton of time in the offensive zone but has almost nothing to show for it. Arizona still hasn’t scored at five-on-five yet and is the only team in the NHL to still be in the single digits in goals.
What needs to change? Well, nothing really jumps off the page. The Coyotes rank fourth in the NHL in Corsi For (CF%) at 59.10. That’s an outstanding number, and is a huge improvement over last season’s 48.10 CF%.
The ‘Yotes are averaging 35.6 shots per game, and are allowing only 24.2 shots against. There’s been significant improvement in this area, too – the Coyotes were outshot by an average of 2.3 shots per game last year. The goals against are down as well – after surrendering 3.06 goals per game last year, that number is at 2.20 this season.
Both traditional statistics and advanced metrics favor Arizona, but the results on the ice have been bitterly disappointing, to say the least. Pucks just aren’t going in right now.
Minnesota wins 2-1. The Coyotes were facing a team that played last night in Nashville and was down two players. Hard to find cause for optimism after this loss. Thus far, it has been another October to forget. The Coyotes are already 1-4 with three games left on this trip.
— Craig Morgan (@CraigSMorgan) October 17, 2018
Perhaps it’s time to take a page out of Pedro Cerrano’s book and sacrifice a live chicken?
Coyotes Weekly Recap
After a winless opening week, the ‘Yotes opened Week No. 2 in Anaheim on Wednesday against the same Ducks team that crashed Arizona’s home opener back on Oct. 6. This time around, it would be the Coyotes who would pick up the road win, as they scored a power play goal and a shorthanded tally in regulation before Nick Cousins buried one in the shootout to give Arizona their first win of the season, 3-2.
The Coyotes then returned home to Gila River Arena and hosted the Buffalo Sabres in their second home game of the season on Saturday evening. Early in the contest, the ‘Yotes surrendered a goal to Rasmus Dahlin, the No. 1 pick in this summer’s draft, and the 18-year-old’s tally stood up as the game-winner, as Sabres goaltender Linus Ullmark made 36 saves and pitched a shutout to send the Coyotes to a third shutout defeat in four games.
Arizona then hit the road and headed to St. Paul to take on the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night. Brendan Perlini opened the scoring with a first-period power play goal, but ‘Yotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper surrendered a soft goal to Mikael Granlund in the second period before Erik Staal netted the game-winner in the third to send Minnesota to a 2-1 victory.
After dropping a disappointing decision in Minnesota on Tuesday night, the Coyotes will continue their road trip on Thursday in the Windy City with a matchup against the Chicago Blackhawks. Last season, the Hawks missed the playoffs for the first time this decade, but they’ve rebounded this year with points in their first five games to start the season. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 P.M. local time (5:30 P.M. in Arizona) at the United Center.
The ‘Yotes will then make their first visit to Canada on Saturday, when they’ll take on the Winnipeg Jets. After getting wins during five of their six visits to Atlanta, the Coyotes have yet to win a road game in nine tries in Winnipeg since the Thrashers relocated following the 2010-11 season. Will they finally break the streak in their only trip to Manitoba of the season? Puck drop is scheduled for 3:00 P.M. local time (1:00 P.M. in Arizona) at Bell MTS Place.
Arizona’s four-game road trip will then come to an end in Columbus on Tuesday with the team’s only visit to Nationwide Arena, the home of the Blue Jackets. John Tortorella’s squad won three of their first four this season, but suffered an 8-2 defeat at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday in their most recent action. This one will get started at 7:00 P.M. local time (4:00 P.M. in Arizona) in Columbus.
Pacific Division Roundup
We’re through two weeks and the Anaheim Ducks remain atop the Pacific Division. However, the surprising Vancouver Canucks have wins in three straight games are just a point back.
Anaheim Ducks (4-1-1, 9 points)
- Last week: 1-1-1 (3-2 SOL vs AZ, 5-3 L at DAL, 3-2 W at STL)
- Analysis: It was an up-and-down week for the Ducks, and regression from goaltender John Gibson was the culprit. After carrying the team through the first three games of the season, Gibson allowed six goals in two games last week before giving way to Ryan Miller on Sunday in St. Louis. Anaheim is still in good shape though – their nine points put them behind only the Nashville Predators and Toronto Maple Leafs in the league standings.
- Player of the week: Hampus Lindholm – 5 assists, +1
- This week: Wed vs NYI, Sat at VGK, Sun vs BUF, Tue at CHI
Calgary Flames (3-2-0, 6 points)
- Last week: 1-1-0 (5-3 L at STL, 3-2 OTW at COL)
- Analysis: Outside of two stinkers from goaltender Mike Smith, the Flames have played some pretty solid hockey thus far in 2018-19. The offense has been consistent, producing 18 goals in five games. Could Calgary take a playoff spot away from one of the Pacific’s slow-starting teams?
- Player of the week: Mikael Backlund – Goal, assist, +3, 7 shots
- This week: Wed vs BOS, Fri vs NSH, Sun at NYR, Tue at MTL
Edmonton Oilers (2-2-0, 4 points)
- Last week: 2-1-0 (4-1 L at BOS, 2-1 W at NYR, 5-4 OTW at WPG)
- Analysis: Another week, another Connor McDavid record – he recorded points on Edmonton’s first nine goals this season, breaking the previous record of seven held by Adam Oates. The defense, goaltending, and secondary scoring remain suspect, though – will McDavid be able to carry this Oilers team all season long?
- Player of the week: Connor McDavid – 4 goals, 3 assists, +2
- This week: Thu vs BOS, Sat vs NSH, Tue vs PIT
Los Angeles Kings (2-3-1, 5 points)
- Last week: 1-2-0 (3-0 W at MTL, 5-1 L at OTT, 4-1 L at TOR)
- Analysis: New season, same problems. The Kings’ offense remains anemic (averaging two goals per game), and backup goaltender Jack Campbell has been hit-or-miss as of late. He shut out the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday, making 40 saves in the process, but was then shelled for four goals in 30 minutes against the Erik Karlsson-less Ottawa Senators before being pulled. He’ll need to be more consistent until Jonathan Quick returns to the lineup if the Kings expect to hang around in the Pacific.
- Player of the week: Jeff Carter – Goal, 2 assists, +1, 12 shots
- This week: Thu vs NYI, Sat vs BUF, Tue at DAL
San Jose Sharks (2-3-1, 5 points)
- Last week: 0-1-1 (3-2 OTL at NYR, 3-2 L at NJ)
- Analysis: We saw San Jose’s offensive potential in their 8-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Oct. 9, but they’ve scored a combined nine goals in their other five games this season, going 1-3-1 in the process. Perhaps a return to the friendly confines of the SAP Center will help matters this week?
- Player of the week: Brent Burns – 3 assists, +3, 10 shots
- This week: Thu vs BUF, Sat vs NYI, Tue at NSH
Vancouver Canucks (4-2-0, 8 points)
- Last week: 3-0-0 (4-1 W at TB, 3-2 W at FLA, 3-2 OTW at PIT)
- Analysis: The Canucks changed goaltenders before last Thursday’s contest against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the switch paid immediate dividends. Replacing Jacob Markstrom, Anders Nilsson stepped into the crease and stopped all but five of the 88 shots he faced last week to lead Vancouver to three straight road victories over Eastern Conference foes.
- Player of the week: Anders Nilsson – 3-0-0 record, 83 saves on 88 shots (.943 SV%, 1.67 GAA)
- This week: Thu at WPG, Sat vs BOS, Mon vs WSH
Vegas Golden Knights (3-4-0, 6 points)
- Last week: 2-2-0 (5-2 L at WSH, 4-2 L at PIT, 1-0 W at PHI, 4-1 W vs BUF)
- Analysis: Are the Golden Knights back? During their first five games, they looked nothing at all like the team that dominated the Western Conference last season. However, they shut out the Flyers 1-0 on Saturday and convincingly beat the Sabres 4-1 on Tuesday at T-Mobile Arena. Is this the start of another magical run?
- Player of the week: Jonathan Marchessault – 2 goals, 2 assists, +3, 15 shots
- This week: Sat vs ANA
With three road games coming up, the Coyotes must find a way to score some goals and avoid falling further behind in the Pacific Division.
Last year’s dreadful October resulted in nearly six months of meaningless hockey from November to April. Arizona needs to rally and do everything possible to prevent that from happening again this season.
A lifelong Phoenix resident, Louis has been following hockey since 2010, has covered the Arizona Coyotes since 2015, and has been playing hockey since 2020. So far, Louis has visited eight NHL cities, and one of his personal goals is to eventually make it to all 31 NHL arenas. For any questions or concerns, contact the writer via Twitter @LouisPannone.