Coyotes Corner: Team Returns to Win Column Amid Rising COVID Cases

Welcome to another rendition of Coyotes Corner, and yet again there’s no shortage of news with the Arizona Coyotes, both on and off the ice. Arizona snapped a six-game losing streak with a 6-5 overtime win over the Anaheim Ducks on Friday, but with the team’s rise in active players and staff currently in the league’s COVID-19 protocol, the upcoming week of action hangs in the balance.

Related: Coyotes News & Rumors: Chychrun on the Block, Arena Updates & More

As usual, the headlines off the ice were almost as enticing as the Coyotes’ on-ice play, and defensive Jakob Chychrun has been all over the news after NHL insider Elliotte Friedman indicated Arizona general manager Bill Armstrong was actively listening to offers from potential suitors. Alas, there’s absolutely no reason to believe the 23-year-old defenseman is going anywhere, but that didn’t stop the blogosphere from seemingly making its pitch for the superstar.

Don’t believe us? Just look here. Here, as well. Don’t forget here!

We rest our case.

Arizona Coyotes Corner Jakob Chychrun & Clayton Keller

Let’s dive in to the Coyotes’ week that was, and what to watch for this week.

Writer’s note: Those of you who read my articles know I rarely venture into first person, however, I wanted to pause and reflect on Coyotes Senior Director of Amateur Hockey Development Matt Shott, who passed away early Sunday morning after a very courageous battle with cancer. This was devastating news, and I offer my condolences to his family, friends, and Coyotes family. Rest in peace, Matt.

Central Division Standings (As of 12/20/2021)

TeamRecordPoints
Minnesota Wild19-8-240
Nashville Predators19-10-139
St. Louis Blues17-9-539
Colorado Avalanche17-8-236
Winnipeg Jets14-11-533
Dallas Stars14-12-230
Chicago Blackhawks11-15-426
Arizona Coyotes6-21-214

The Week That Was

Coyotes vs. New York Rangers (Dec. 15, 3-2 Loss)

Arizona went into the game on a five-game losing streak, and though the team appeared to be on its way to ending that skid, a 2-1 third-period lead quickly evaporated after two late power-play goals, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Coach André Tourigny was mum on the calls at the end of the game, but was clearly not pleased with the Coyotes being put on the penalty kill twice so late in the game.

What Went Right
Arizona appeared to be on its way to a win after Clayton Keller put the team up 2-1 with just over 11 minutes left in the third period. The Coyotes outshot the high-powered Rangers 31-30, outhit them 29-17, and even notched a shorthanded goal, courtesy of Loui Eriksson, while goalie Scott Wedgewood appeared to be on his way to another victory after turning aside all but one shot through two and a half periods.

Wedgewood finished with 27 saves on 30 shots.

What Went Wrong
Penalties absolutely destroyed the Coyotes, and the timing of them was even worse. The Rangers were 2-for-3 with the man advantage, and down by one goal with just over five minutes left, New York tallied two power-play goals courtesy of Mika Zibanejad and Kaapo Kakko en route to a comeback win. Phil Kessel was whistled for the first penalty (interference), and the team was assessed the second minor penalty for too many men on the ice, and though both seemed like borderline calls, the inability to effectively kill off penalties ultimately spelled disaster.

Top Coyotes Performers
Keller, who notched two points and finished plus-2 in 22:10 time on ice (TOI).

Key Takeaway
The Coyotes need to stay out of the penalty box. Again. It’s been a recurring theme, but the penalties, especially late in the period, have been disastrous this season.

Coyotes at Anaheim Ducks (Dec. 17, 6-5 OT Win)

Let there be offense! Arizona scored the most goals it had all season against the Anaheim Ducks last Friday, ultimately prevailing 6-5 in overtime over the upstart Ducks. The game was a see-saw affair that featured five lead changes (1-0, 1-2, 3-4, 5-4, and 6-5), a rare Arizona power-play goal, and a sweet overtime winner courtesy of, who else, Keller.

What Went Right
Offense. For once the Coyotes were not reliant on stellar goaltending to sneak away with a win, instead converting on five of their 27 shots on goal. Wedgewood was great when he needed to be, turning aside 32 of 37 shots faced in the game, but secondary scoring was on par with the opposition, a refreshing change. Keller scored twice, but goals from Travis Boyd, Christian Fischer, Phil Kessel, and Andrew Ladd all helped propel Arizona to victory.

What Went Wrong
It’s hard to nit-pick this one, but the penalty kill again reared its ugly head. The Ducks were 2-for-5 with the man advantage, and used a power-play goal late in the third period to tie the game and force overtime.

Top Coyotes Performer
Keller again, who led the way with two goals and one assist. Boyd (1G, 2A), Kessel (1G, 1A), and Schmaltz (2A) all contributed multi-point games as well.

Key Takeaway
Enjoy the offense, because it’e been a rare sight this season. It was refreshing to see the Coyotes’ hard work pay off, and they controlled the pace for much of the second period after somewhat of a lackluster start. It was a true team win, and fun to watch.

Coyotes vs. Vancouver Canucks (Dec. 19, Postponed)

Arizona’s Sunday game against the Vancouver Canucks was postponed by the league due to a high influx of positive COVID-19 tests. The rescheduled date is still TBD.

Looking Ahead

***Disclaimer – the NHL may cancel these matchups at any time, though at the time of publication, these games are set to be played as scheduled.***

Upcoming Games
Tuesday, Dec. 21 at Seattle Kraken
The Coyotes are set to take on the Seattle Kraken for the second time this season, marking the club’s first trip to the Emerald City. Arizona won the first game 5-4 back on Nov. 6 thanks to Lawson Crouse’s third-period goal with just 1:05 remaining, this after the Kraken’s Mark Giordano tied the game just 13 seconds earlier.

Jordan Eberle, Seattle Kraken
Jordan Eberle leads the Seattle Kraken in scoring. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Forward Jordan Eberle leads the team with 21 points and 12 goals, while Jaden Schwartz’s 14 assists are tops. The clubs will meet once more after Tuesday’s tilt, on March 23 at Gila River Arena.

Thursday, Dec. 23 vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
What better way to head into the holiday break than with a date against the defending back-to-back Stanley Cup Champs? Thursday’s game marks the second and final time these two will match up, this after the Lightning won 5-1 back on Oct. 28. A lot has changed since then, and the Coyotes have forged somewhat of an identity, but the ask remains tall against a 19-6-4 Tampa Bay team.

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Forward Steven Stamkos leads the team in scoring (34 points) and goals (13), while goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy has compiled a 16-4-3 record with a 2.10 goals-against average and .928 save percentage.

Quotables

“His production, it’s not that I don’t care, I care, but it’s the least of my worries because the way he works. His competitiveness every day, it’s beautiful. It’s fantastic.”

– Coach André Tourigny on forward Clayton Keller’s performance this season.

“It was kind of a weird play where everyone kind of didn’t know where the puck was and I kind of just saw it last second. [Nick] Schmaltz makes a great play, and I just tried to shoot through a screen. It was good to see that one go in.”

– Forward Clayton Keller on his game-winning overtime goal against Anaheim.

On The Hockey Twittersphere

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