Coyotes Weekly: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

The calendar has officially flipped to 2019, and the Arizona Coyotes will begin the New Year with a critical stretch of games that could define their season. Three struggling clubs will come to Glendale this week, and the Coyotes are three games below the .500 mark. Will they take advantage of this chance to make up some ground in the Western Conference, or will they falter and continue their slide down the standings?

Coyotes Week in Review

After picking up a huge shootout victory over the San Jose Sharks prior to the holiday break, the Coyotes were back in action on Thursday night in Los Angeles when they traveled to the Staples Center to meet the Kings. Jakob Chychrun opened the scoring with a power-play goal in the first period, but Jake Muzzin tied the game just over three minutes later when his shot deflected off of three Coyotes and past goaltender Darcy Kuemper. Dustin Brown then gave the Kings their first lead just 17 seconds into the third period, and Jonathan Quick took things from there, as he stopped 26 of 27 Arizona shots en route to a 2-1 victory.

goaltender Darcy Kuemper
Darcy Kuemper played well in Los Angeles, and likely would have earned the Coyotes at least one point had it not been for a fluky Jake Muzzin goal. (Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)

Following their loss in Downtown Los Angeles, the Coyotes remained in Southern California and headed down the I-5 Freeway to Anaheim for a Saturday night matchup against the Ducks. Anaheim entered this one on a four-game losing streak, but they looked to be in control early as they led 3-1 just 12 seconds into the second period. However, the Coyotes mounted a furious comeback – they scored three of the game’s next four goals and were able to get the game to overtime, where Nick Schmaltz did this just 33 seconds in:

Returning home with momentum after their thrilling win at the Honda Center, the Coyotes took on the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday evening in Glendale in a game where both teams were playing the second half of a back-to-back. It was a close one through two periods, as Vegas led 2-1 after 40 minutes, but the Knights poured it on in the third, scoring three times in 7:23 to break it open in what would eventually become a 5-1 Vegas triumph.

A Look Ahead

After that blowout loss against Vegas, the Coyotes will get a chance to redeem themselves on Wednesday night in their first game of 2019, when Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers come to town. It’s been a struggle for Ken Hitchcock’s group as of late – they’ve lost six straight games in regulation and have been stuck at 39 points since Dec. 14. Will the Coyotes be able to take advantage of a group that looks like they’re the “same old Oilers” after all? Note the later start than usual – puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 P.M. in Glendale.

Ken Hitchcock of the Edmonton Oilers
The effects from the firing of Todd McLellan and the hiring of Ken Hitchcock seem to have worn off in Edmonton. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

The New Jersey Devils will then come to town on Friday night for their only visit of the season to Glendale. This is a game the Coyotes need to win – New Jersey has won only four of 19 road games in 2018-19 and is tied with the bottom-feeding Ottawa Senators for the fewest wins away from home this season. Will they take advantage of their struggling opposition? We’ll find out at 7:00 P.M. in Glendale.

In the final game of the week, the New York Rangers will visit the Coyotes in Glendale on Sunday afternoon. Since a surprising 12-8-2 start, the Blueshirts have been a largely average team – they’re 5-6-5 since Thanksgiving and are starting to fall behind in the Eastern Conference playoff race. This one will get started at 2:00 P.M. at Gila River Arena.

Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist
Henrik Lundqvist will likely get the start against the Coyotes on Sunday afternoon in Glendale. (Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports)

Pacific Division Roundup

The Pacific Division’s top teams kept on rolling last week, but the Ducks and Oilers continued their slides. A wild-card spot is still within reach for Arizona – are they capable of going on a run and getting back in the playoff race?

Anaheim Ducks (19-15-7, 45 points)

  • Last week: 0-1-2 (4-2 L at SJ, 5-4 OTL vs AZ, 2-1 OTL vs TB)
  • Analysis: Anaheim’s slide continued last week, and they now find themselves perilously close to being out of playoff position as a result. Their total of 45 points is still seventh-best in the West, but other teams are catching up in a hurry as the Ducks have lost six straight. It sure would help if they could rediscover their offense – nine goals in six games won’t cut it. Things need to change in the New Year.
  • Player of the week: Nick Ritchie – Goal, 4 assists, +4
  • This week: Fri vs VGK, Sun vs EDM

Calgary Flames (24-12-4, 52 points)

  • Last week: 2-0-1 (4-1 W at WPG, 3-2 OTL vs VAN, 8-5 W vs SJ)
  • Analysis: The Flames rebounded nicely from a three-game pre-Christmas skid, as they picked up five of a possible six points prior to the start of the New Year. Next up? Four road games in six nights in four cities.
  • Player of the week: Johnny Gaudreau – 5 goals, 2 assists, +4
  • This week: Wed at DET, Thu at BOS, Sat at PHI, Mon at CHI
Johnny Gaudreau
Johnny Gaudreau had another huge week in Calgary. (Photo: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

Edmonton Oilers (18-18-3, 39 points)

  • Last week: 0-3-0 (4-2 L vs VAN, 7-4 L vs SJ, 4-3 L vs WPG)
  • Analysis: The Oilers, once six games above .500, have lost six straight in regulation, the last five of which took place on home ice. The Ken Hitchcock honeymoon appears to be over already, as Edmonton has regressed to the level they were playing at under Todd McLellan. The Oilers now play four straight away from home against Pacific Division foes – this could be a season-defining trip for Edmonton.
  • Player of the week: Leon Draisaitl – 4 goals, 2 assists
  • This week: Wed at AZ, Sat at LA, Sun at ANA, Tue at SJ

Los Angeles Kings (16-22-3, 35 points)

  • Last week: 2-2-0 (2-1 W vs AZ, 4-1 L vs VGK, 3-2 OTW at COL, 2-0 L at VGK)
  • Analysis: The Kings still can’t score, but they’re getting much better at the defensive end of the ice – they’ve allowed two goals or fewer in five of their last seven games. They’re slowly creeping up the standings, too. They’ve gained three games against the .500 mark in the last three weeks.
  • Player of the week: Jack Campbell – 46 saves on 47 shots (.979 SV%) in loss at VGK
  • This week: Thu vs TB, Sat vs EDM, Mon at SJ

San Jose Sharks (21-13-7, 49 points)

  • Last week: 2-1-0 (4-2 W vs ANA, 7-4 W at EDM, 8-5 L at CGY)
  • Analysis: Erik Karlsson has been a man on a mission since returning from his suspension, as he’s picked up six points in his first two games back. However, defense has been an issue again in San Jose – the Sharks have allowed four or more goals in four of their last six. They have to tighten things up before the playoffs.
  • Player of the week: Erik Karlsson – Goal, 5 assists, +5
  • This week: Wed at COL, Sat vs TB, Mon vs LA, Tue vs EDM
Erik Karlsson - Sharks
Erik Karlsson has six points in two games since returning from suspension. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Vancouver Canucks (19-19-4, 42 points)

  • Last week: 2-1-0 (4-2 W at EDM, 3-2 OTW at CGY, 4-0 L at NJ)
  • Analysis: After an 11-16-3 start, the Canucks are officially back to .500 just 12 games later. It’s been a remarkable turnaround for Vancouver and is one that could continue as rookie sensation and Calder Trophy frontrunner Elias Pettersson gains more and more experience.
  • Player of the week: Elias Pettersson – 2 goals, assist, +4
  • This week: Wed at OTT, Thu at MTL, Sat at TOR

Vegas Golden Knights (24-15-4, 52 points)

  • Last week: 4-0-0 (2-1 W vs COL, 4-1 W at LA, 5-1 W at AZ, 2-0 W vs LA)
  • Analysis: Last week couldn’t have gone any better for Gerard Gallant’s group – Vegas swept both of their home games and swept a road back-to-back in Los Angeles and Arizona. This team looks like it’ll be dangerous in the playoffs once again, especially if they can once again earn home-ice advantage, as the Golden Knights boast a 13-3-3 record at T-Mobile Arena this year.
  • Player of the week: Paul Stastny – 3 goals, 3 assists, +8
  • This week: Fri at ANA, Sun vs NJ, Tue vs NYR