From all of us at The Hockey Writers, Happy Holidays! We hope all of our readers out there are enjoying this special time of year in the company of friends and family.
During the holiday season, they say it’s better to give than to receive, but the Arizona Coyotes received a pretty sick early Christmas gift this week, and they’re pretty excited about it. On Monday, it was announced that the club had acquired 2018 Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for three prospects and two draft picks.
The arrival of Hall immediately makes Arizona one of the favorites in what is a wide-open Western Conference. They already have the best goaltending duo in the West, and they just added an elite scorer in his prime to their offense.
Coyotes general manager John Chayka has to be happy with his holiday haul, but he’ll be happier if Hall can help deliver the best gift of all – the Stanley Cup.
Coyotes Week in Review
Fresh off of an embarrassing 5-2 blowout on home ice at the hands of the Calgary Flames on Dec. 10, the Coyotes got back to work at Gila River Arena on Thursday with the Chicago Blackhawks in town. Following a shootout victory at the United Center on Dec. 8, Arizona wasted no time in jumping all over Chicago in this one – Michael Grabner, Clayton Keller, and Brad Richardson all beat Robin Lehner in the opening period, with former Blackhawk Vinnie Hinostroza providing the secondary assist on all three goals.
The teams then traded goals in each of the game’s final two frames, but this one was never really close thanks to the Coyotes’ big first period, as Arizona rolled to a 5-2 victory over the Blackhawks, and their second win over Chicago in a five-day span.
Arizona then welcomed the New Jersey Devils to town on Saturday night in the finale of their three-game homestand in Glendale. After their hot start against Chicago on Thursday, the shoe was on the other foot for the Coyotes in this one – Jesper Boqvist scored just 2:17 in to give the Devils an early boost, but Alex Goligoski answered with a power-play goal later in the period to tie the game at one apiece.
The teams remained in a 1-1 deadlock until Kyle Palmieri scored his 12th of the season at 11:34 of the third period to break the tie. The Coyotes tried to tie the game late, but a bad tripping penalty by Clayton Keller effectively took two minutes of valuable time away from Arizona, and they were unable to beat New Jersey goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood for a second time as they dropped a 2-1 decision to finish the homestand with a 1-2-0 record.
After acquiring Taylor Hall on Monday, the Coyotes hit the road for a one-off road game at the SAP Center against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday evening. The game was a back-and-forth affair – neither club scored consecutive goals on the night, as Tomas Hertl matched Arizona’s first-period goal from Carl Soderberg as well as their second-period tally from Derek Stepan.
Then, in the third period, Hall showcased his talents – late in a 2-2 hockey game, Hall won a race to a loose puck and found an open Oliver Ekman-Larsson out front, who fired a shot off of a San Jose defender and into the net to put the Coyotes in front, 3-2.
The Sharks received a late 5-on-3 power play chance with 44 seconds remaining after Ilya Lyubushkin was whistled for playing without a helmet and Brad Richardson was called for a faceoff violation within 15 seconds of one another. With goaltender Aaron Dell on the bench, it effectively became a 6-on-3 advantage. The Coyotes held, though, and picked up their 20th win of the season by the slimmest of margins.
A Look Ahead
After spending the day at Phoenix Children’s Hospital on Wednesday, the Coyotes will hit the ice on Thursday for a one-off home game against the Minnesota Wild. These teams have already played twice this season, with Minnesota taking one-goal decisions in Glendale on Nov. 9 and in St. Paul on Nov. 14.
The Wild have been playing good hockey as of late – they were 5-10-1 when the teams met for the first time on Nov. 9, but they’ve improved their record to 16-14-5 since then. Bruce Boudreau’s club should provide a tough test for the Coyotes in Hall’s first home game in Arizona. Note the late start – we’ll get things started at 7:30 P.M. at Gila River Arena.
The Coyotes will then embark upon a three-game trip to close out the road portion of their 2019 schedule, starting on Sunday night in Detroit. Arizona won 4-1 in their final visit to Joe Louis Arena on Dec. 13, 2016, but they’ve so far been unable to win a game at the Red Wings’ new barn – they’re 0-2-0 at Little Caesars Arena, with 5-3 and 6-1 losses in their previous two visits.
However, despite their recent struggles in Detroit, this game should be winnable for the Coyotes. Detroit is far and away the NHL’s worst team in 2019-20, and, entering play on Thursday, they own a dismal 5-13-1 record on home ice. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 P.M. local time at “LCA” (5:00 P.M. in Arizona).
Once their business in the Motor City is complete, the Coyotes will hop on a plane to the Music City and will close out their pre-Christmas slate with a Monday night matchup against the Nashville Predators. These clubs met in Glendale in the sixth game of the season, which was won easily by the Coyotes by a 5-2 margin.
The Predators are scoring a ton of goals this year, but their normally stout defense has taken a step back, and Nashville is struggling to keep their heads above water as a result. This one, which is the Coyotes’ only visit to Tennessee this season, will get started at 7:00 P.M. at Bridgestone Arena (6:00 P.M. in Arizona).
Pacific Division Roundup
With 44 points through 36 games, the Coyotes still find themselves in first place in the Pacific Division, but their lead has been trimmed to just a single point. Here’s a look at the rest of the division:
Anaheim Ducks (14-17-4, 32 points)
- Last week: 1-2-0 (4-3 SOW vs NYR, 4-1 L at PHI, 3-1 L at NJ)
- Analysis: The Ducks have won in regulation just once in the month of December, and they’ve fallen to last place in the Western Conference as a consequence. On Dec. 17, 2018 – just 367 days ago – the Ducks were sitting with a 19-11-5 record through 35 games, comfortably in playoff position. Since then, Anaheim’s record is 30-43-9 – third-worst in the NHL over that span. What happened?
- Player of the week: Rickard Rakell – Goal, 3 assists, 12 SOG
- This week: Sat at NYI, Sun at NYR
Calgary Flames (18-14-4, 40 points)
- Last week: 1-2-0 (4-2 W vs TOR, 4-0 L vs CAR, 4-1 L vs PIT)
- Analysis: Calgary entered last week with an eight-game point streak, but back-to-back blowout losses on home ice to close out the week put a bit of a damper on things. Who are the real Flames? The team that was 10-12-3 through 25 games, or the team that has posted an 8-2-1 record over their last 11?
- Player of the week: Johnny Gaudreau – 3 goals, +1, 10 SOG
- This week: Thu vs MTL, Sun at DAL, Mon at MIN
Edmonton Oilers (19-14-4, 42 points)
- Last week: 1-3-0 (6-5 L at MIN, 4-1 L vs TOR, 2-1 W at DAL, 2-1 L at STL)
- Analysis: The Most Inconsistent Team in the NHL™ is back – the Oilers have won just once over their last six games, and, with a 12-13-4 record since Oct. 19, they’re fading quickly following a 7-1-0 start. At this rate, this team might not even make the playoffs – they need another scoring option outside of Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl to emerge, quickly.
- Player of the week: Leon Draisaitl – 2 goals, 2 assists, 17 SOG
- This week: Fri vs PIT, Sat vs MTL, Mon at VAN
Los Angeles Kings (15-18-3, 33 points)
- Last week: 3-0-1 (2-1 W at ANA, 5-4 SOL at PIT, 4-2 W at DET, 4-3 OTW at BOS)
- Analysis: In case you haven’t noticed, and judging by the attendance you haven’t, the Kings have managed to win a few here and there, and are threatening to climb out of the cellar.
- Player of the week: Tyler Toffoli – 2 goals, 4 assists, +5
- This week: Thu at CBJ, Sat at BUF, Mon vs STL
San Jose Sharks (16-18-2, 34 points)
- Last week: 1-2-0 (6-3 L vs NYR, 4-2 W vs VAN, 3-2 L vs AZ)
- Analysis: The Sharks started 4-10-1, then went 11-2-0 in their next 13 to climb back into the thick of things, then followed that up with a 1-6-1 stretch to fall back out of the thick of things. Life comes at you fast, Sharks fans.
- Player of the week: Tomas Hertl – 4 goals
- This week: Sat vs STL, Sun vs VGK
Vancouver Canucks (16-15-4, 36 points)
- Last week: 1-3-0 (1-0 OTW vs CAR, 4-2 L at SJ, 6-3 L at VGK, 3-1 L vs MTL)
- Analysis: The Canucks have slowly been taking on water over the past seven or so weeks, and it looks like they might finally be feeling the effects. They’re now just a single game above .500, and are being left behind by the other teams in the Western Conference. Rumblings about Travis Green’s job security have begun.
- Player of the week: Brock Boeser – Goal, 3 assists, 9 SOG
- This week: Thu vs VGK, Sat vs PIT, Mon vs EDM
Vegas Golden Knights (19-13-5, 43 points)
- Last week: 3-1-0 (4-2 L at STL, 3-2 OTW at DAL, 6-3 W vs VAN, 3-2 W vs MIN)
- Analysis: Winners of 8 of their past 11, the Golden Knights have rapidly climbed back into the conversation in the Pacific Division. Max Pacioretty, a notoriously streaky scorer, is in the middle of one of his streaks at the moment, with nine points in his last five games. How much longer can he keep this up for?
- Player of the week: Max Pacioretty – 4 goals, 4 assists, +4, 16 SOG
- This week: Thu at VAN, Sun at SJ, Mon vs COL