Coyotes Corner: Vejmelka Shines on Long Roadtrip but Team Remains Winless

It’s officially our third edition of Coyotes Corner, and though the Arizona Coyotes are still searching for their first win of the season, it hasn’t all been bad. Arizona hasn’t played a game at home since Oct. 23, and has gone through a gauntlet of opponents, including the Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, Florida Panthers, and Carolina Hurricanes. Though the results weren’t what the team had in mind, the Coyotes have shown a lot of fight in their previous two games, specifically against the Capitals and Hurricanes.

Arizona Coyotes Corner Jakob Chychrun & Clayton Keller

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise has been the performance of NHL rookie goaltender Karel Vejmelka, who has done everything he can to keep the Coyotes competitive against juggernaut opponents. More on him later.

Central Division Standings (As of 11/2/2021)

TeamRecordPoints
St. Louis Blues6-1-012
Winnipeg Jets4-2-210
Minnesota Wild5-3-010
Nashville Predators4-4-08
Colorado Avalanche4-4-08
Dallas Stars3-4-17
Chicago Blackhawks1-7-24
Arizona Coyotes0-8-11

The Week That Was

Coyotes at Panthers (Oct. 25, 5-3 Loss)

The Coyotes kicked their roadtrip off in Sunrise, Fla., and despite a late-game rally they fell just short of a comeback bid, allowing the Florida Panthers to remain unbeaten. The game came at a cost, as well, as starting goalie Carter Hutton did not return after the first period after sustaining a lower body injury.

What Went Right
Just when it seemed like Arizona was down and out in the third period, Liam O’Brien and Phil Kessel scored within 34 seconds of one another to trim the Panthers’ lead to one goal. Though former Coyote Anthony Duclair ended up icing the game with an empty netter, the team highlighted its never-say-die attitude, and turned what could have been an embarrassing performance into an extremely competitive game.

Clayton Keller also scored for Arizona, while Vejmelka stopped 26-of-29 shots he faced in the final two periods, helping the Coyotes stay afloat.

What Went Wrong
Stop us if you’ve heard this before: Penalties! Arizona gave up two power-play goals to the Panthers, including one with just 19 seconds left in the first period, which at the time evened the score 1-1. Florida would go on to score three more goals, and though the Coyotes’ rally was admirable, they simply dug too big of a hole against a championship contender to dig out of.

With Hutton sidelined for at least a few weeks, Arizona called up goalie Ivan Prosvetov from the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Tucson Roadrunners following the game.

Top Coyotes Performers
Keller, Kessel, and O’Brien, who each scored one goal.

Key Takeaway
Even when they seem down and out, the Coyotes continue to press. The team has sound resolve even though it has yet to win a game this season.

Coyotes at Lightning (Oct. 28, 5-1 Loss)

Arizona’s 5-1 loss was eerily similar to a loss against the Edmonton Oilers on Oct. 21, which was also by a 5-1 tally. It was a tough game for Prosvetov, making his season debut (and just his second career NHL start) against the defending back-to-back Stanley Cup champions, and the Lightning took full advantage. Tampa Bay held a 3-0 lead 10:41 into the game, and though the Coyotes were able to stop the bleeding, they were never able to climb back into it.

What Went Right
Not a whole lot, but Lawson Crouse did tally his second goal of the season 12:36 into the third period.The Coyotes did win 60 percent of their faceoffs, as well.

What Went Wrong
Defense and Special Teams. The 22-year-old Prosvetov was not put in a position to succeed by his defense, and had little chance on a number of the goals scored. Still, they did nothing on the power play (0-for-3), and allowed the Lightning to score on one of their four opportunities.

Ivan Prosvetov Arizona Coyotes
Ivan Prosvetov made his season debut against the Lightning. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images)

Top Coyotes Performer
Crouse, who scored the only goal of the game.

Key Takeaway
Ill-timed penalties have continued to doom the Coyotes, and this game was no different. Starting a rookie goalie against a team of Tampa’s caliber offered little room for mistakes, and Arizona simply made too many.

Coyotes at Capitals (Oct. 29, 2-0 Loss)

Welcome to the start of the Karel Vejmelka show, and though it didn’t stop after this game, the 25-year-old Czech Republic native burst onto the scene in the Coyotes’ 2-0 loss to Washington. The Capitals, meanwhile, improved to 5-0-3 after the win, continuing their early-season streak of having not lost a game in regulation.

What Went Right
Vejmelka did everything he could to keep the Coyotes in the game, but the team’s failure to score doomed him from the start. Nonetheless, Friday’s game against the Capitals started a sequence that’s seen the netminder put the team squarely on his shoulders, and has given them the ability to hang in games late, even against contenders. “Veggie” stopped 30-of-31 shots against Washington, posting a save percentage (SV%) of .968 in the contest.

Karel Vejmelka, Arizona Coyotes
Goaltender Karel Vejmelka has done all he can to keep Arizona in games this season. (Patrick Brown / The Hockey Writers)

What Went Wrong
Scoring, or lack thereof. Wins will be hard to come by for the Coyotes this season, and they simply can’t afford to be held off the scoresheet. It was their second shutout loss of the season, following a 3-0 home loss to the New York Islanders on Oct. 23.

Top Coyotes Performer
Vejmelka, who single-handedly kept the Coyotes in the game.

Key Takeaway
The team still has the ability to hang in games, as the Capitals didn’t notch their first goal until 12:02 into the third period, but Arizona needs to generate more offense. Washington outshot the Coyotes 32-16, and had six power-play opportunities. That is far too many against a team of that caliber.

Coyotes at Hurricanes (Oct. 31, 2-1 Loss)

If the previous loss to the Capitals was Vejmelka announcing himself to the rookie scene, a Halloween matinee against the Carolina Hurricanes solidified the goalie’s early-season lore after he stopped 37-of-39 shots. The Hurricanes remained unbeaten on the season (8-0-0), but the Coyotes gave them everything they could handle.

What Went Right
Stop us if you’ve heard this before – Vejmelka! Yet again the netminder stood on his head, posting a SV% of .949 in the game. For those keeping score at home, he’s put together a 2.63 goals-against average and .920 SV% heading into tonight’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers, and his path to the NHL has been nothing short of remarkable this season. “Veggie” has been a true bright spot in a challenging season.

What Went Wrong
Penalties, penalties, penalties. Can you believe the Coyotes allowed the Hurricanes to have FIVE power-play opportunities? That’s certainly not the way to go about things against a team that’s yet to lose this season, and though Arizona was able to weather much of the storm, Jakob Chychrun took a back-breaking penalty with just over three minutes left in the game. Carolina took full advantage, potting the eventual game winner with the man advantage.

Top Coyotes Performer
Vejmelka, again. Christian Fischer scored the Coyotes’ lone goal, his second of the season.

Key Takeaway
Stay. Out. Of. The. Penalty. Box.

Looking Ahead

Upcoming Games
Tuesday, Nov. 2 at Philadelphia, 4 pm
It must be somewhat of a relief for the Coyotes to look at their schedule and see an opponent that’s actually lost a game this season, even if the Philadelphia Flyers are still one of the better teams in the league. Sean Couturier leads the team in scoring with nine points (three goals, six assists), while goalie Martin Jones has posted the best stats to this point between the pipes, compiling a 2.01 GAA and .941 SV% in two games this season.

Friday, Nov 5 at Anaheim, 7 pm
The Coyotes have a chance to finish their roadtrip on a positive note, as they return to the west for a matchup against the 3-4-3 Anaheim Ducks. Center Troy Terry has 10 points on five goals and five assists this season, but with goals-against per game of 3.40 for the Ducks, Arizona may finally have the ability to generate a little more offense. John Gibson leads the way in net for Anaheim, posting a 2.93 GAA and .906 SV% in seven games this season.

John Gibson Anaheim Ducks
John Gibson with the Anaheim Ducks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)


Saturday, Nov. 6 vs. Seattle, 7 pm
Arizona returns home to face the Seattle Kraken for the first time in history, and the 3-6-1 Kraken present an opportunity for the team to return on a high note. Seattle is led by center Jared McCann’s seven points (three goals, four assists), while goalie Philipp Grubauer has handled the majority of work in net, posting a 2.82 GAA and .896 SV% in eight games this season.

Quotables

“They deserve more. They really earned the right to get a point at least.”
– Coyotes coach André Tourigny on the team’s 2-1 loss to Carolina.

“He was amazing. When I chose a description I made of the team, without his performance in the first period we could have been down early. I think we gave up five good scoring chances in the first and Vejmelka was rock solid. He gave us the hope that we’re one shot away, and we knew he’d would be tough to beat.”
Tourigny on Vejmelka’s performance against the Capitals.

On The Hockey Twittersphere

Catch Up On All The News

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Coyotes Corner: Winless in the Desert & Searching for Road Success

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