Coyotes Corner: Team Stumbles After Vejmelka’s First Shutout

Another week is in the books for the Arizona Coyotes, and what a whirlwind it was. The week started with goalie Karel Vejmelka’s first career NHL shutout, a 1-0 win over the Winnipeg Jets, but the Coyotes then lost their mojo and were outscored 12-3 over an 0-2-0 stretch to round out the week.

Related: Coyotes Relocation Rumors Swirl Yet Again; Team Denies Report

Add to that the ugly relocation rumors that resurfaced yet again (spoiler alert: The Coyotes are not for sale!), and it was a busy week for a team that’s still trying to forge an identity.

Arizona Coyotes Corner Jakob Chychrun & Clayton Keller

There were certainly some bright spots. In addition to Vejmelka’s aforementioned shutout, Travis Boyd continued his solid start to the season, and is officially in career-year territory, as his six goals are the most he’s ever tallied in a single season.

Let’s recap the week that was before reviewing what to watch for, in what will be somewhat of a sleepy week that only features three games.

Central Division Standings (As of 12/6/2021)

TeamRecordPoints
Minnesota Wild17-6-135
Winnipeg Jets12-8-428
St. Louis Blues12-8-428
Nashville Predators13-10-127
Colorado Avalanche12-7-226
Dallas Stars12-7-226
Chicago Blackhawks9-13-220
Arizona Coyotes5-17-212

The Week That Was

Coyotes at Jets (Nov. 29, 1-0 Win)

This was a special night for Vejemelka, who stood on his head en route to his first-ever NHL shutout. The 25-year-old Czech netminder made 46 saves for the Coyotes to help them win their fifth game of the season, tying a league record for most saves by a goalie in their first-ever shutout. Antoine Roussel potted his third goal of the season, the only one the team needed to emerge with a win.

What Went Right
Arizona capitalized on its opportunities and did enough in the game to withstand Winnipeg’s onslaught of chances. Special teams were a bright spot for a change, considering the Coyotes killed off all six of the Jets’ power plays. The final shot tally was 46-15, so needless to say, Vejmelka stood on his head all game.

It was Veggie’s second win of the season, and a true high point for the team to come away with a road victory.

What Went Wrong
Penalties. Yes, the Coyotes managed to kill off all six of Winnipeg’s power-play opportunities, but that they gave up that many opportunities is troubling for a team that has faced the sixth-most power-play opportunities against, at 78. Though they’ve seen a bump in their penalty kill percentage as of late, their mark of 71.79 percent ranks 29th in the NHL.

Top Coyotes Performers
Vejmelka, obviously.

Key Takeaway
It wasn’t pretty, but it was certainly a feel-good story for a team that hasn’t had much to smile about this season. They were sacrificing bodies, blocking shots, and doing everything they could to protect Vejmelka’s lead.

Coyotes at Wild (Nov. 30, 5-2 Loss)
Stop us if you’ve heard this before: The Coyotes lost to the Minnesota Wild. Goalie Scott Wedgewood was unable to recreate Vejmelka’s magic from a few nights earlier, and though the team grabbed an early lead courtesy of Clayton Keller’s beauty, three second period goals were too much for Arizona to overcome en route to a 5-2 loss.

What Went Right
Keller and defenseman Anton Stralman scored for the Coyotes, and the team also managed a slight advantage in the face-off circle, winning 50.9 percent of is draws. Arizona also only turned the puck over twice, and it didn’t allow a single power-play goal for a second consecutive game, killing off all four of the Wild’s opportunities with the man advantage.

What Went Wrong
The second period. It was disastrous for the Coyotes, who surrendered three goals after entering the frame tied 1-1. Though Stralman’s second goal of the season narrowed the gap to 4-2 with 14 minutes left in the game, Marcus Foligno put the game out of reach just two minutes later with his ninth goal of the season.

Top Coyotes Performer
Keller notched two points in the game with a goal and an assist in addition to recording a team-high seven shots. His 16 points are tied with defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere for the team lead, while he shares the team lead in goals scored with Boyd (6).

Key Takeaway
The Coyotes bounced back from a poor offensive showing against the Jets by generating 31 shots, but their defense was unable to shut down Minnesota’s high-flying offense. Still, Stralman’s third period goal gave the team a chance to make a run, even if they weren’t able to mount a comeback.

Coyotes vs. Golden Knights (Nov. 30, 7-1 Loss)
This one was ugly. Arizona returned home to host the Vegas Golden Knights, but there wasn’t much to celebrate during the 7-1 shellacking. Boyd’s sixth goal of the season tied the game midway through the first period, but that’s where all the magic dried up for Arizona.

Vegas scored four goals in under eight minutes in the second period, effectively slamming the door shut on an effort head coach André Tourigny called a “step back” in his postgame press conference.

What Went Right
The only arguments here are for Boyd’s sixth goal of the season, as well as a wildly successful night in the face-off circle. Arizona won 57.9 percent of the night’s draws, though special teams went out the window after such strong performances earlier in the week.

What Went Wrong
Everything. The defense was virtually non-existent, and as mentioned earlier, special teams were a disaster. The Coyotes not only allowed a power-play goal for the first time in three games, they also allowed Vegas to score a shorthanded goal early in the second, which set the tone for the rest of the game.

Top Coyotes Performer
Boyd, but only because we have to pick someone.

Travis Boyd Arizona Coyotes
Travis Boyd scored the only goal against the Golden Knights on Friday. (Patrick Brown / The Hockey Writers)

Key Takeaway
This game was tough for the Coyotes, considering that even though they’ve struggled to win games this season, they usually keep things relatively competitive. They need to regroup heading into a tough slate of games this week.

Looking Ahead

Upcoming Games
Monday, Dec. 6 at Dallas
The Coyotes face the Stars again this week after losing their first matchup 3-2 in Arizona on Nov. 27. Center Joe Pavelski leads the way for the team with 19 points on seven goals and 12 assists, and look out, because Dallas is one of the hottest teams in the league right now. They’ve won six straight games, and eight of their last nine, most recently a 3-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets last Thursday.

Friday, Dec. 10 vs. Florida
The Coyotes get a long break before returning home to Gila River Arena on Friday to close their season series against the Florida Panthers. The Cats won 5-3 in the first meeting between the two, back on Oct. 25, and are led by winger Jonathan Huberdeau, who’s notched 29 points on eight goals and 21 assists this season. Winger Anthony Duclair leads the team with nine goals.

Sergei Bobrovsky Florida Panthers
Sergei Bobrovsky has been stellar with the Florida Panthers this season. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Sergei Bobrovsky has been brilliant for the Panthers this season, and won’t make life easy on the offensively-starved Coyotes, as he’s 11-1-2 with a 2.41 goals-against average (GAA) and .920 save percentage (SV%).

Saturday, Dec. 11 vs. Philadelphia
Arizona closes its back-to-back games at home against the underachieving Philadelphia Flyers, who are led by center Claude Giroux’s 19 points. Winger Cam Atkinson leads the team with eight goals on the year, while goalie Carter Hart is 5-7-3 with one shutout, a 2.94 GAA and .911 SV%.

Quotables

“Lately we’re tougher to play against, we’re in every game, so we cannot expect to not trip at some point, and stumble, and have a tough night … It’s not fun, but at the same time I don’t think we’ll let one game define who we are. We’re a proud team, we are tough to play against, we work hard, and that won’t change because of one game.”
– Coyotes coach André Tourigny on the team’s effort following a 7-1 loss to Vegas on Friday.

“It was a special moment for me, for a shutout. An unbelievable moment for me. I’m just trying to enjoy it as much as I can right now. Unbelievable night and big points for us … I took a picture with (the puck) and I will give it to my father because he supported me every single game when I was a child.”
Vejmelka after his first-career NHL shutout.

On The Hockey Twittersphere

Catch Up On All The News

Coyotes Daily Download – Recap, Stats, Injuries & News
3 Takeaways from the Coyotes’ 7-1 loss to the Golden Knights
Coyotes Relocation Rumors Swirl Yet Again; Team Denies Report
Coyotes Corner: Team Struggles to Keep Up Recent Hot Play

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