Monday Morning Howl: Coyotes Earn 3 Points to Start ’18

There’s no doubt that 2017 was a disappointing year for the Arizona Coyotes, but the early returns from 2018 suggest that it’ll be a much better year for the club.

Coyotes Start Strong in 2018

The Coyotes dropped their final game of 2017 in Anaheim on New Year’s Eve, but their 2018 got off to a much better start when they hosted the Nashville Predators at Gila River Arena on Thursday. Anthony Duclair opened the scoring for the Coyotes in the second period, but goals from Ryan Ellis and Craig Smith 17 seconds apart gave Nashville a 2-1 lead in the third period. It looked like the ‘Yotes were on their way to another disappointing defeat, but Nick Cousins scored a late power play goal to send the game to overtime, where Christian Fischer once again provided the heroics:

Arizona was back in action on Saturday against Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers. The Coyotes and Anthony Duclair once again played well after their solid all-around effort on Thursday night, but Lundqvist was the story in this one – he stopped 38 of the 39 shots he saw in regulation and overtime before denying all three ‘Yotes shooters in the skills contest to give New York a 2-1 shootout victory at Gila River Arena.

A Bye Week & Back-to-Back

After their loss to the Rangers on Saturday, the Coyotes began their five-day league-mandated bye week. They’ll be off until Friday night, when they’ll get back to work against Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers at Gila River Arena. It’s been a struggle for Edmonton in 2017-18 – after finishing with 103 points last year, the Oilers are off to a slow start this season, and, barring a miraculous turnaround, will miss the playoffs for the 11th time in 12 seasons. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 P.M. in the Valley of the Sun.

Connor McDavid Oilers
Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers have struggled badly this season. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Coyotes will have a short turnaround following their matchup with the Oilers, as they’ll quickly leave Phoenix and head up to San Jose for a Saturday night matchup against the Sharks. Arizona will have their work cut out for them in this one – the Sharks will be fresh off of their bye week and are one of the league’s stingiest defensive teams, as their team goals-against average of 2.60 is fifth-lowest in the league. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 P.M. local time (8:30 P.M. in Arizona) at the SAP Center.

Pacific Division Roundup

The calendar recently flipped to 2018, but not much has changed in the Pacific Division, as another week of dominance from the Vegas Golden Knights has them seven points ahead of their nearest competition. Here’s how Arizona’s other division rivals fared last week:

Anaheim Ducks (19-15-9, 47 points)

  • Last week: 1-1-1 (5-0 W at VAN, 2-1 SOL at EDM, 3-2 L at CGY)
  • Analysis: It was an up-and-down week for the Ducks – they dominated the Canucks in the first game of their Western Canada road trip, but ran into some issues on the offensive end of the ice in losses to the Oilers and Flames. They’ll now enter their bye week with a chance to get some key players back to full strength.
  • Player of the week: Josh Manson – 4 assists, +4
  • This week: Sat at LA

Calgary Flames (21-16-4, 46 points)

  • Last week: 2-0-0 (4-3 W vs LA, 3-2 W vs ANA)
  • Analysis: For the first time since Nov. 5, the Flames are winners of three consecutive games. They’re just a single point out of a playoff spot and will have a chance to build more momentum before embarking upon their bye week on Jan. 15.
  • Player of the week: Micheal Ferland – 2 goals, 2 assists, +4
  • This week: Tue at MIN, Thu at TB, Fri at FLA, Sun at CAR
Micheal Ferland Calgary Flames
Micheal Ferland. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Edmonton Oilers (18-22-3, 39 points)

  • Last week: 1-3-0 (5-0 L vs LA, 2-1 SOW vs ANA, 5-1 L at DAL, 4-1 L at CHI)
  • Analysis: The wheels have officially fallen off in Edmonton – the Oilers have zero regulation wins since Dec. 23 and have allowed four or more goals in six of their last seven games. Things are becoming desperate in Oil Country.
  • Player of the week: Michael Cammalleri – Shootout goal, assist
  • This week: Tue at NSH, Fri at AZ, Sat at VGK

Los Angeles Kings (24-13-5, 53 points)

  • Last week: 1-2-0 (5-0 W at EDM, 4-3 L at CGY, 4-3 L vs NSH)
  • Analysis: The Kings scored 11 goals in three games last week, but were only able to pick up a single victory – a 5-0 decision over the Oilers on Tuesday in Edmonton. They’re still in good shape in the Western Conference playoff race, but a chance at a division title seems to be slipping away.
  • Player of the week: Tanner Pearson – 2 goals, 3 assists, +3
  • This week: Sat vs ANA

San Jose Sharks (21-13-6, 48 points)

  • Last week: 1-1-2 (4-1 W at MTL, 3-2 SOL at TOR, 6-5 OTL at OTT, 4-1 L at WPG)
  • Analysis: The Sharks earned points in three of four games last week, but unfortunately were only able to pick up one victory over that span. They opened 2018 with an impressive 4-1 win over the Canadiens at the Bell Centre, but followed that up with back-to-back overtime losses against Toronto and Ottawa before suffering a 4-1 loss on Sunday in Winnipeg. They’ll have a few days off to rest and recover during their bye week before getting back to work against the Coyotes on Saturday.
  • Player of the week: Brent Burns – Goal, 4 assists
  • This week: Sat vs AZ
Brent Burns Sharks
Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks, Nov. 28, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Vancouver Canucks (16-20-6, 38 points)

  • Last week: 0-2-1 (5-0 L vs ANA, 3-2 SOL at TOR, 5-2 L at MTL)
  • Analysis: The Canucks continued their freefall down the Western Conference standings last week – they earned just one point in three games, were outscored 13-4, and are now 2-10-2 in their last 14. They’ve gone from four games above .500 to four games under in the span of a month and are ahead of only the Coyotes in the West.
  • Player of the week: Daniel Sedin – Goal, 2 assists
  • This week: Tue at WSH, Fri at CBJ, Sun at MIN

Vegas Golden Knights (29-10-2, 60 points)

  • Last week: 3-1-0 (3-0 W vs NSH, 2-1 L at STL, 5-4 W at CHI, 2-1 W vs NYR)
  • Analysis: The Golden Knights and head coach Gerard Gallant continue to amaze – they’re now 14-1-1 in their last 16 and are threatening to run away from the Los Angeles Kings in the Pacific Division. Who would have thought that they’d enter their bye week as the Western Conference’s top team?
  • Player of the week: Marc-Andre Fleury – 2-1-0 record, 94 saves on 97 shots (.970 SV%), 1 shutout
  • This week: Sat vs EDM
Marc-Andre Fleury Golden Knights
Vegas Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)

The Coyotes showed signs of improvement last week – can they continue their solid play when they return from their bye week on Friday night?