Welcome to another rendition of Coyotes Corner, and there was no shortage of news last week. Most of the Arizona Coyotes‘ headlines, in fact, were off the ice, with even more drama to the team’s ever-evolving feud with the City of Glendale. The most recent development highlighted a failure to remain current on taxes, as well as other arena expenses, which put the Coyotes at risk of being locked out of Gila River Arena later this month.
Alas, the club has indicated it’s now current on all financial obligations, and has worked out a payment plan to ensure future remittance is not an issue. Whether that happens right now remains to be seen, though NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman definitively shot down any potential relocation chatter, and has never wavered on the Coyotes’ future in Arizona.
On the ice the Coyotes were 0-3-0 last week, and they have now lost five straight games and seven of their last eight. Arizona kicks off its action this week at home against the New York Rangers on Wednesday before hitting the road for three straight.
As always, we’ll recap the week that was before reviewing what to watch for in the upcoming week.
Central Division Standings (As of 12/13/2021)
|St. Louis Blues||15-8-5||35|
The Week That Was
Coyotes at Stars (Dec. 6, 4-1 Loss)
The Coyotes took a quick trip to the Lonestar State for a road matchup against the Dallas Stars, and as it’s gone all season long, one big period did the club in. The teams were tied 1-1 heading into the third period, but the Stars pulled ahead after scoring three goals in a span of eight minutes of the final frame. Penalties were again the team’s achilles heal, as Arizona took four, compared to Dallas’ one.
What Went Right
The Coyotes hung in the game through the first two periods, and put themselves in a position to win the game by heading into the third period tied. Shayne Gostisbehere continued his stellar play with Arizona by tying the game in the second period, which was his fourth goal of the season, but ultimately the team was unable to generate enough offense to pull ahead.
Scott Wedgewood stopped 23 of 27 shots for the Coyotes, while Braden Holtby turned aside 18 of the 19 shots he faced.
What Went Wrong
In addition to the lack of scoring, which has been a theme for the majority of the season, the Coyotes again got themselves into penalty trouble, and they paid dearly. Dallas took a 2-1 lead nine minutes into the third period courtesy of Jacob Peterson’s fourth goal of the season, and after Loui Eriksson was whistled for tripping just four minutes later, the Stars converted on their fourth power play of the game. That one put the game out of reach, though Dallas added one more under two minutes later for good measure.
Top Coyotes Performers
Gostisbehere, who provided the only offense of the game for Arizona.
The Coyotes need to stay out of the penalty box. They have done well in hanging in games for the most part, but they tend to give up the “big period” more often than not, putting themselves out of games. More on this later.
Coyotes vs. Panthers (Dec. 10, 3-1 Loss)
This game was a moral victory of sorts for the Coyotes, who hung with the league-leading Florida Panthers throughout the entire game. The first period was a high-scoring affair, in fact, all of the scoring happened in the opening frame, en route to a 3-1 loss against the high-powered 18-4-4 Cats.
What Went Right
The power play! Arizona notched its first power-play goal since Nov. 16 courtesy of Phil Kessel, whose seeing-eye shot beat goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, and put the Coyotes within striking distance at the time. It wasn’t all good on special teams, though, as the Panthers scored with just 25 seconds left in the first after Nick Schmaltz was called for hooking moments earlier, re-establishing their two-goal lead. Seeing as how that concluded the scoring for the game, it was another blemish on one of the league’s worst penalty kills (currently 29th in the league at 71.91 percent).
What Went Wrong
There was only a 10-second span in the game that the Coyotes would like back, and it’s happened all too often this season. Florida scored twice in that span, just nine minutes into the game, to go up 2-0 within the blink of an eye. Yes, Kessel’s tally chipped that deficit to one goal in the same period, but given how difficult it has been for the team to generate offense, those types of breakdowns are difficult to recover from.
Top Coyotes Performer
Kessel performed well in notching his fourth of the season, but Wedgewood’s 20 saves helped keep the Coyotes within striking distance until the very end.
You can’t win if you don’t score. Arizona played sound defensively, and even matched the Panthers’ shot output of 23, but they again weren’t able to find the back of the net. It’s the million dollar question, but the Coyotes desperately need to find a way to generate more than one goal per game. Their goals-for per game of 1.78 is — you guessed it — dead last in the laegue.
Coyotes vs. Flyers (Dec. 11, 5-3 Loss)
There was plenty of optimism heading into Saturday night’s 90s-themed tilt against the Philadelphia Flyers, considering both teams were in the second of back-to-back games, and the Flyers had lost 10 straight games before finally defeating the Vegas Golden Knights one night earlier.
Arizona again fell victim to a flurry of scoring, though, and two second-period Flyers goals within 1:13 of each other spelled disaster for the Coyotes.
What Went Right
Arizona mustered some offense and scored three goals in a game for the first time since a 5-3 loss against the Edmonton Oilers on Nov. 24. Unfortunately for the Coyotes, they were down 5-2 late in the third period before recording that third goal of the game, and by that point, the game’s result seemed pretty clear. Their shot output was again strong at 32, but it wasn’t enough to knot the game.
What Went Wrong
Self-inflicted wounds. Whether it was turnovers (Karel Vejmelka attempted a disastrous passing attempt across the zone, which was intercepted by forward Patrick Brown who buried it into a wide-open net) or special teams play (Arizona allowed one power-play goal while going 0-for-2 with the man advantage), the Coyotes could not get out of their own way in Saturday’s loss. Brown’s second-period tally gave the Flyers the lead less than a minute after Nick Schmaltz tied the game, and was an absolute momentum killer.
Top Coyotes Performer
Schmaltz, who recorded both a goal and an assist in just his second game back from injury. Defenseman Cam Dineen, filling in for Jakob Chychrun, also logged two assists, increasing his total to three apples in nine career NHL games.
Again, the snowball effect seems to happen at least once per game, and before they know it, it feels like the Coyotes are out of a game they worked so hard to get back into. Arizona needs to lock it down after a goal is scored, plain and simple.
Wednesday, Dec. 15 vs. New York Rangers
The Coyotes face the 18-6-3 Rangers on Wednesday, the final game of their three-game homestand before hitting the road. The Rangers are in a virtual tie for second place in the highly competitive Metropolitan Division with 39 points, the same as the Carolina Hurricanes and just one point behind the division-leading Washington Capitals.
Artemi Panarin leads all Rangers in scoring with 32 points, while Chris Kreider’s 17 goals are tops on the club. Defending Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox’s 24 assists round out the group’s balanced scoring attack.
Friday, Dec. 17 at Anaheim
The upstart Anaheim Ducks won the first meeting between these two teams 3-1 back on Nov. 5, and have gone 11-5-2 since that game. Troy Terry leads the team in points (28) and goals (17), while Ryan Getzlaf’s 19 assists are tops. Goalie John Gibson has played in 22 games, vs. backup Anthony Stolarz’s nine, but both boast goals-allowed averages under 2.6 and save percentages over .915.
Stolarz won the Nov. 5 contest between the two teams after turning aside 28 of 29 shots.
Sunday, Dec. 19 at Vancouver
Sunday’s matchup against the Vancouver Canucks is the first meeting this season between the clubs, and the 12-15- Canucks have won four straight games, and six of their last seven, as of the time of this writing. They do have three games this week before facing the Coyotes, against the Columbus Blue Jackets, San Jose Sharks, and Toronto Maple Leafs, so there’s a lot that can happen before these two meet.
J.T. Miller leads Vancouver in goals (9) and points (28), while defenseman Quinn Hughes’ 20 assists are the most on the team. It’s also of note that this is the first time Arizona will play against former captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson, assuming he returns from injury (currently listed as day-to-day), and forward Conor Garland, who has 21 points on the season.
“It seems like when they get one, they get another right after, and that’s something we need to tighten up on. That’s two games in a row now. When you get behind you’re just chasing it, right, and then you’re forced to make extra plays.”
– Forward Lawson Crouse after the team’s 5-3 loss to Philadelphia
“I think that’s the most offense we’ve created in terms of scoring chances in a long, long time. That’s positive. On the downside, for sure, we want to results, but we played probably against the best team in the NHL tonight, and after the third goal they didn’t generate a lot. We played really well defensively, and we had our chances. Unfortunately it’s not enough, but there’s a positive in that game.”
– Coach André Tourigny after the Coyotes’ 3-1 loss to Florida.
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A die-hard hockey fan in the desert, and proud Iowa State alum. Detroit Red Wings and Arizona Coyotes contributor for The Hockey Writers.