Coyotes Weekly: Back-To-Back Against the Champs? No Problem

On Monday and Tuesday night, the Arizona Coyotes accomplished something that had never been done before in the history of the National Hockey League.

On back-to-back nights, the Coyotes went into the arenas of both of the last two Stanley Cup champions, the Washington Capitals and the St. Louis Blues, respectively, and came away with four points.

There had been 69 prior occurrences where teams had a chance to pull off this feat, but the Coyotes were the first to escape such a situation with two wins.

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Coyotes Week in Review

Following a disappointing 4-3 overtime loss to the Calgary Flames on Nov. 5, the Coyotes flew home to Glendale and began a short two-game homestand on Thursday evening against the Columbus Blue Jackets. CBJ entered the game on a five-game losing streak, but they struck quickly at Gila River Arena, scoring just 14 seconds in to take the lead.

Arizona struck back with two unanswered goals of their own, but Emil Bemstrom tied the game with his first career NHL goal late in the second period. Oliver Bjorkstrand then scored halfway through the third, seconds after a failed clearing attempt by Coyotes defenseman Kyle Capobianco, and Columbus held on for a 3-2 victory.

Columbus Blue Jackets Oliver Bjorkstrand Colorado Avalanche Tyson Jost
Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Oliver Bjorkstrand moves the puck past Colorado Avalanche center Tyson Jost. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

The Coyotes then wrapped up their homestand with a visit from the Minnesota Wild on Saturday evening. In another game against a struggling team (Minnesota entered with a 5-10-1 record), the Coyotes were the ones that got off to a fast start this time, jumping out to a 3-1 lead within the first 28:20 of the game. However, it was all Minnesota from there, as Kevin Fiala, Matt Dumba, and Ryan Hartman provided three unanswered goals for the Wild, who escaped Glendale with a 4-3 victory despite being outshot 35-24 on the night.

They say that going on the road in the NHL can help teams quickly flush a disappointing homestand, and that’s exactly what the Coyotes set out to accomplish when they kicked off a three-game roadie on Monday night against the 2018 Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. Despite the back-to-back losses to bad teams on home ice in their previous action, the Coyotes jumped all over the Capitals in this one, as they held a 3-0 lead just 45 seconds into the second period thanks to goals from Clayton Keller, Christian Fischer, and Michael Grabner.

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However, the Caps answered – Evgeny Kuznetsov scored twice to make it a photo finish, and T.J. Oshie delivered the tying goal with goalie Ilya Samsonov pulled to send the game to overtime. It appeared as if Oshie won the game for Washington at 2:16 of overtime, but, after review, it was determined that the Capitals were offside prior to the goal being scored, and Arizona received new life, which they used to earn a 4-3 shootout victory after Nick Schmaltz and Conor Garland scored, while Oshie and Kuznetsov were denied by Antti Raanta at the other end.

Arizona Coyotes Conor Garland
Conor Garland (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

After wrapping up the two points in Washington, D.C., the Coyotes endured airport delays and a two-and-a-half-hour flight to St. Louis, Missouri, before a Tuesday night affair against the St. Louis Blues. Arizona found themselves trailing 2-1 entering the third period, but the previous night’s shootout hero, Conor Garland, scored a power-play goal which sent the game to overtime, and, eventually a shootout, where Schmaltz and Garland once again took center stage – the duo both beat Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington, while Darcy Kuemper denied Tyler Bozak and Ryan O’Reilly at the other end to earn a 3-2 triumph against the defending Stanley Cup champions.

A Look Ahead

With four points in tow from a back-to-back against the last two Stanley Cup champions, the Coyotes will head north to Minnesota for a grudge match against the Wild. Minnesota took two points from the Coyotes on home ice on Saturday, and the Coyotes will be looking to return the favor at the Xcel Energy Center on Thursday evening – puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 P.M. Central time (6:00 P.M. in Arizona).

Minnesota Wild's Devan Dubnyk
Minnesota Wild’s Devan Dubnyk (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)

From there, the Coyotes will return home and will kick off a three-game homestand with another Kachina Saturday when the Calgary Flames come to town. As is the case in Thursday’s game against Minnesota, the Coyotes have some unfinished business with the Flames – in the last meeting between the two division rivals, the Coyotes blew a 3-1 lead late in regulation and eventually lost 4-3 in overtime at the Saddledome. Note the early start for this one – puck drop will take place at 2:00 P.M. in Glendale.

Calgary Flames Matthew Tkachuk New York Rangers Alexandar Georgiev
Calgary Flames left wing Matthew Tkachuk and New York Rangers goaltender Alexandar Georgiev exchange words. (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

Speaking of division rivals, the Coyotes will have their first chance of 2019- 20 to “Beat LA” when the Los Angeles Kings visit Gila River Arena on Monday night. In the most recent meeting between the two teams on April 2, the Kings dealt Arizona an extremely damaging loss that essentially eliminated the Coyotes from playoff contention. These games are always must-see TV, and this one will get started at 7:00 P.M. in the Valley of the Sun.

Pacific Division Roundup

Don’t look now, but the Coyotes are just two points out of first place in the Pacific Division, with a game in hand on the No. 1-seeded Edmonton Oilers. Here’s a look at what the rest of the division was able to accomplish last week:

Anaheim Ducks (9-8-2, 20 points)

  • Last week: 0-1-1 (6-2 L vs EDM, 4-3 OTL vs DET)
  • Analysis: The Ducks continued to struggle last week, dropping both of their home games in regulation to fall to 0-3-1 in their last four, and 3-6-2 since Oct. 18. Things won’t get much easier this week – the surging San Jose Sharks, 2019 Stanley Cup champion Blues, and 2018 Stanley Cup champion Capitals are up next.
  • Player of the week: Adam Henrique – 3 assists, 6 SOG
  • This week: Thu vs SJ, Sat at STL, Mon at WSH

Calgary Flames (10-8-3, 23 points)

  • Last week: 1-1-1 (5-2 W vs NJ, 3-2 OTL vs STL, 3-1 L vs DAL)
  • Analysis: The Flames continued to tread water in the standings last week – their inability to put together a long point streak is holding them back, but their avoidance of lengthy losing skids has kept them in contention.
  • Player of the week: Sean Monahan – 2 goals, assist, 7 SOG
  • This week: Sat at AZ, Sun at VGK, Tue vs COL

Edmonton Oilers (12-6-2, 26 points)

  • Last week: 2-1-0 (4-0 W vs NJ, 6-2 W at ANA, 6-3 L at SJ)
  • Analysis: It looks like the Oilers’ goaltending tandem might become a traditional starter/backup situation very soon – Mike Smith has allowed nine goals in his last two starts and is just 5-5-1 on the season, while Mikko Koskinen boasts an impressive .928 SV%, 2.16 GAA, and 7-1-1 record in 2019-20. Dating back to their days in Arizona, Smith has played under head coach Dave Tippett for seven seasons now, but it might be time for Tippett to go in another direction.
  • Player of the week: Leon Draisaitl – 2 goals, 5 assists, +3, 8 SOG
  • This week: Thu vs COL, Sat vs DAL, Tue at SJ
Edmonton Oilers Leon Draisaitl
Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

Los Angeles Kings (6-11-1, 13 points)

  • Last week: 1-1-1 (3-2 OTL at OTL, 3-2 L at MTL, 3-1 W vs MIN)
  • Analysis: “Three” is the number of the day for the Kings. As in, the Kings have allowed “three” or more goals in eight of their last nine games. That’s not exactly a recipe for success, although the defense and goaltending have been steadily improving as the season has progressed. The Ilya Kovalchuk situation isn’t going to help matters in Los Angeles, though.
  • Player of the week: Anze Kopitar – 2 goals, 2 assists, +1, 4 SOG
  • This week: Thu vs DET, Sat vs VGK, Mon at AZ

San Jose Sharks (8-10-1, 17 points)

  • Last week: 3-0-0 (6-5 W vs MIN, 2-1 SOW vs NSH, 6-3 W vs EDM)
  • Analysis: After dropping the first two games of a six-game homestand to fall to 4-10-1, the Sharks turned it on last week and potentially saved their season – they closed the homestand with a perfect 4-0-0 record, and scored 18 goals in the process. With their next 10 games taking place in either California, Nevada, or Arizona, the Sharks will have an excellent opportunity to climb back into playoff contention in the Western Conference.
  • Player of the week: Logan Couture – Goal, 5 assists, +2, 10 SOG
  • This week: Thu at ANA, Sat vs DET, Tue vs EDM
San Jose Sharks' Logan Couture
San Jose Sharks’ Logan Couture (AP Photo/Josie Lepe)

Vancouver Canucks (10-6-3, 23 points)

  • Last week: 1-3-0 (5-2 L at CHI, 4-1 L at WPG, 2-1 L vs NJ, 5-3 W vs NSH)
  • Analysis: Vancouver’s offense has dried up as of late, and points have been hard to come by as a result – the Canucks have scored just 10 times in their last five games (1-3-1), with five of those goals coming in their most recent effort, a 5-3 win over the Nashville Predators. A six-game road trip is looming on the horizon – can the Canucks get out of their funk before then?
  • Player of the week: Tanner Pearson – 2 goals, assist, 11 SOG
  • This week: Thu vs DAL, Sat vs COL, Tue at DAL

Vegas Golden Knights (9-8-3, 21 points)

  • Last week: 0-3-1 (2-1 OTL at TOR, 5-2 L at WSH, 3-2 L at DET, 5-3 L vs CHI)
  • Analysis: We’ve talked about it all season long in this space – Vegas has been riding Marc-Andre Fleury all year due to the lack of a reliable backup, and it appears as if Flower is beginning to wilt – he’s allowed four or more goals in three of his last four starts, and the Golden Knights are 1-3-2 in November as a result.
  • Player of the week: Max Pacioretty – 3 goals, 19 SOG
  • This week: Sat at LA, Sun vs CGY, Tue vs TOR