The All-Star break is here, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Arizona Coyotes. With a 1-4-1 record in their last six games, and a 6-7-1 mark since losing goaltender Darcy Kuemper to injury back on Dec. 19, the Coyotes need to rest, refocus, get healthy, and prepare for what will be an intense second half.
At the break, there is exactly one point of separation between the Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Vegas Golden Knights, and Coyotes in the Pacific Division standings.
Every other NHL division leader has at least a four-point lead over the second-place squad, and no third-place team is within seven points of a first-place club. With five teams bunched so close together in the standings, the second half promises to be a dogfight all the way to Game No. 82 in the Pacific Division.
Every game will matter, and the Coyotes need to get their starting goaltender back in the lineup in order to have a fighting chance at bringing home just the second division title in franchise history.
Coyotes Week in Review
After picking up a 6-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks on home ice on Jan. 14, the Coyotes hit the road for their final road trip before the All-Star break, beginning on Thursday, Jan. 16 in Vancouver.
Christian Dvorak scored first for Arizona just 7:59 in, but the Canucks answered with a Bo Horvat power-play goal later in the period, then took the lead with a Jake Virtanen wraparound goal late in the second period. The Coyotes furiously pushed for the equalizer, firing 35 shots at Vancouver goaltender Jacob Markstrom, but they were unable to get another puck past the 29-year-old and the Canucks won, 3-1, after Tanner Pearson added a late empty-netter.
From there, the ‘Yotes traveled eastward to Alberta for a Saturday afternoon matinee at Rogers Place against the Edmonton Oilers. Antti Raanta made his return to the lineup in this one after being on the shelf since Jan. 10 with a lower-body injury, but it became clear early on that he didn’t have his A-game on this day.
The Oilers lit Raanta up for three goals on eight shots in the opening period, then struck for three more goals in the middle period to chase the Coyotes netminder. It was the third straight game that Raanta started but didn’t finish – the first two were due to injury, but this one was undoubtedly a mercy pull as the veteran goaltender stopped just 12 of 18 Edmonton shots.
Backup Adin Hill came on in the third period and stopped the bleeding a little bit, but the Coyotes could not muster a comeback bid, and Riley Sheahan scored into the empty net at 16:14 for his fourth point of the night and provided the final margin in a 7-3 Oilers triumph.
A Look Ahead
The Coyotes will not have a player at the 2020 NHL All-Star Game in St. Louis, Missouri, but Rick Tocchet will coach the Pacific Division in Saturday’s 3-on-3 tournament, which will begin at 7:00 P.M. local time at the Enterprise Center (6:00 P.M. in Arizona).
After a 10-day break from game action, the ‘Yotes will get back to work at the Honda Center on Wednesday, Jan. 29 in their final contest of the season against the Anaheim Ducks.
The teams have played three times already through Arizona’s first 51 games, with the Coyotes taking a 4-2 win on Jan. 2 and a 4-3 shootout triumph on Nov. 27, while the Ducks won the first meeting, 2-1, way back on Oct. 3. Puck drop in this one is scheduled for 7:00 P.M. local time at the Pond (8:00 P.M. in Arizona).
Pacific Division Roundup
The Canucks entered the All-Star break with sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division, but they have absolutely no breathing room, as they have a one-point lead over the four teams locked in a tie for second place. Here’s a look at how Arizona’s division rivals fared last week:
Anaheim Ducks (19-24-5, 43 points)
- Last week: 2-0-0 (4-2 W at NSH, 2-1 OTW at CAR)
- Analysis: The Ducks finally ended their streak of failing to win consecutive games, as they picked to back-to-back road wins in Nashville and Carolina to close out the pre-All-Star slate with their first winning streak since Oct. 29 – Nov. 1.
- Player of the week: Ryan Getzlaf – 3 assists
- This week: Mon at SJ, Wed vs AZ
Calgary Flames (26-19-5, 57 points)
- Last week: 1-1-0 (2-1 SOW at TOR, 5-2 L at OTT)
- Analysis: The Flames had a good chance to finish the first half in first place in the Pacific Division, but they were blown out by the lowly Ottawa Senators on Saturday to enter the All-Star break with a thud. Ottawa entered their game against the Flames on a nine-game losing streak, but they were able to dominate Geoff Ward’s group, scoring four goals on David Rittich on just 20 shots. In a close Pacific Division race, Calgary can’t afford to suffer bad losses like these.
- Player of the week: Travis Hamonic – 2 assists, +1
- This week: Tue vs STL, Wed at EDM
Edmonton Oilers (26-18-5, 57 points)
- Last week: 1-0-0 (7-3 W vs AZ)
- Analysis: The Oilers played just once last week, but made the most of their lone contest against the Coyotes, picking up a 7-3 win to keep pace in the Pacific Division. Edmonton has points in seven of eight – how much longer will this hot streak last?
- Player of the week: Riley Sheahan – Goal, 3 assists, +3
- This week: Wed vs CGY
Los Angeles Kings (18-27-5, 41 points)
- Last week: 0-2-0 (4-3 L at FLA, 4-1 L at PHI)
- Analysis: Los Angeles’ losing streak reached four last week with back-to-back road losses in Florida and Philadelphia. With just one win so far in 2020, the Kings are officially the worst team of the decade so far.
- Player of the week: Anze Kopitar – Goal, 2 assists, +2
- This week: Wed vs TB
San Jose Sharks (21-25-4, 46 points)
- Last week: 0-2-0 (4-0 L at COL, 4-1 L at VAN)
- Analysis: San Jose suffered two more blowout losses last week to close out their first-half schedule – they’ve now been outscored 14-4 in their last nine periods following a modest two-game winning streak from Jan. 9 to Jan. 11. Since firing Peter DeBoer on Dec. 11 (over six weeks ago), the Sharks have six wins.
- Player of the week: No one
- This week: Mon vs ANA, Wed vs VAN
Vancouver Canucks (27-18-4, 58 points)
- Last week: 2-0-0 (3-1 W vs AZ, 4-1 W vs SJ)
- Analysis: The Canucks, buoyed by a division-leading 16 home wins, find themselves atop the pack in the Pacific at the All-Star break. Just over a month ago, this team was a single game over .500 and was out of playoff position – in 14 games since, Vancouver is 11-3-0. That’s quite the turnaround, and, if Vancouver can figure out how to win some road games, they’ll be in good shape as the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs draw nearer.
- Player of the week: Tanner Pearson – 2 goals, assist, +2
- This week: Mon vs STL, Wed at SJ
Vegas Golden Knights (25-20-7, 57 points)
- Last week: 1-1-1 (4-2 W at OTT, 5-4 SOL at MTL, 3-2 L at BOS)
- Analysis: The Golden Knights went 1-1-1 in Peter DeBoer’s first week behind the bench, but they played well enough to win all three of their games – after winning in Ottawa, Vegas dropped a shootout decision in Montreal on Saturday, then blew a 2-1 lead in a tough road game in Boston on Tuesday. Things are looking up, but Vegas needs to start winning some road games – they’re just 11-10-4 away from home.
- Player of the week: Paul Stastny – 2 goals, 2 assists, +4
- This week: BYE
A lifelong Phoenix resident, Louis has been following hockey since 2010, has covered the Arizona Coyotes since 2015, and has been playing hockey since 2020. So far, Louis has visited eight NHL cities, and one of his personal goals is to eventually make it to all 31 NHL arenas. For any questions or concerns, contact the writer via Twitter @LouisPannone.