Monday Morning Howl: Coyotes Take Steps Backward

After showing signs of progress two weeks ago, the Arizona Coyotes took a few steps backward last week, as they lost all three of their contests in regulation and were outscored 10-2 in the process.

Coyotes Endure Rough Week

The ‘Yotes had a few days off following their 3-2 overtime loss in Las Vegas on Dec. 3, but they got back to work in Boston on Thursday night with a matchup against the Bruins. The Coyotes had lost 11 straight against Boston entering the game, and things quickly went downhill in this one as well – Brad Marchand scored just 15 seconds into the first period and David Backes added his first two goals of the season during the second frame as the Bruins ran away with a 6-1 victory.

David Backes Bruins
David Backes, Boston Bruins, Dec. 2, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Following their blowout in Boston, the Coyotes headed to Columbus and looked to redeem themselves against the Blue Jackets on Saturday night. However, just as they did in Boston, the Coyotes again conceded an early goal, as Josh Anderson scored at the 30-second mark of the first period. Antti Raanta shut the door the rest of the way, but the ‘Yotes couldn’t solve Jackets’ netminder Sergei Bobrovsky, who turned away all 35 shots he saw for his league-leading fourth shutout of the season.

Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky
Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)

The Coyotes finished the week on Sunday night in Chicago with a matchup against the Blackhawks. Despite playing the night before, Arizona played well during the game’s first two periods. However, things fell apart in the third, when Chicago’s potent offense finally broke through for three goals on Scott Wedgewood as the ‘Hawks earned a hard-fought 3-1 victory at the United Center.

Coyotes Hosting Top Teams

After returning home following Sunday’s loss in Chicago, the Coyotes will be back in action on Thursday night at Gila River Arena as they’ll kick off a five-game homestand against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Thanks to their league-leading offense (3.75 goals per game), the Lightning sit atop the standings and are the league’s best team – as of this writing, they hold a .759 points percentage (P%). If they continue to win at their current pace, they’ll become the first team to finish an 82-game season with a P% of .750 or higher since the 2005-06 Detroit Red Wings. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 P.M. in Glendale.

Nikita Kucherov Steve Stamkos Anton Stralman Lightning
Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov is greeted by forward Steve Stamkos and defenseman Anton Stralman (Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)

Things won’t get any easier on Saturday, as the two-time defending Stanley Cup-champion Pittsburgh Penguins will come to town. It should be an interesting night in Glendale – Pittsburgh already defeated Arizona earlier this season at PPG Paints Arena, but the Coyotes have won the last two matchups at Gila River Arena, including a 4-3 overtime victory last season. Puck drop is scheduled for 6:00 P.M. in the Valley of the Sun.

Raanta Returns

Saturday night’s 1-0 loss in Columbus likely didn’t draw much attention throughout the league, but it was indeed a significant game for Arizona – it marked Antti Raanta’s first appearance since suffering an upper-body injury against the San Jose Sharks on Nov. 22.

After an inauspicious start (Josh Anderson scored at the 30-second mark of the opening period), Raanta locked things down in goal – he stopped 33 of the 34 shots he faced on the night, but ended up on the wrong end of a 1-0 decision, as Blue Jackets’ netminder Sergei Bobrovsky pitched a shutout.

Antti Raanta Coyotes
Arizona Coyotes goalie Antti Raanta (Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports)

It appears as if Raanta has picked up right where he left off prior to his injury, and that’s good news for the Coyotes – the 28-year-old netminder has now stopped 99 of the last 103 shots (good for a .961 SV%) thrown his way over his past four contests. He’s kept Arizona in each of his past handful of appearances in net, and, barring another injury, should be a key piece for the Coyotes moving forward.

Pacific Division Roundup

We’ve entered the season’s third month, and the Los Angeles Kings are threatening to run away with the Pacific Division crown. Here’s how Arizona’s other division rivals fared last week:

Anaheim Ducks (12-11-7, 31 points)

  • Last week: 1-0-2 (4-3 SOL at VGK, 3-0 W vs OTT, 3-2 OTL vs MIN)
  • Analysis: Anaheim extended their point streak to four games last week, but, unfortunately, they have just one win over that stretch. There’s no shame in losing in overtime, but the Ducks will need to start winning some games if they wish to climb up the standings in the Western Conference.
  • Player of the week: Adam Henrique – 3 goals, assist, +2
  • This week: Mon vs CAR, Thu at STL, Sat at WSH

Calgary Flames (16-12-2, 34 points)

  • Last week: 2-1-1 (5-2 L vs PHI, 2-1 SOL at TOR, 3-2 OTW at MTL, 4-2 W vs VAN)
  • Analysis: After suffering a 5-2 home loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday night, the Flames bounced back in a big way – they went 2-0-1 to finish the week and kept pace with the rest of the pack in the Western Conference as a result. If Calgary can get some consistency from Mike Smith (allowed 2, 1, 5, 5, and 0 goals in last five appearances), they can be a dangerous team come playoff time.
  • Player of the week: Garnet Hathaway – Goal, 3 assists, +4
  • This week: Tue at MIN, Thu vs SJ, Sat vs NSH, Sun at VAN
Mike Smith Flames
Calgary Flames goalie Mike Smith (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

Edmonton Oilers (12-16-2, 26 points)

  • Last week: 1-2-0 (4-2 L vs PHI, 6-2 W at MTL, 1-0 L at TOR)
  • Analysis: The Oilers continue to struggle in the consistency department – they scored six goals on Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens, but scored two goals combined in their other two games against the Flyers and Maple Leafs. Laurent Brossoit is doing all he can to keep the Oilers in contention while Cam Talbot recovers from an injury, but he’ll need some support from his offense in order to do so.
  • Player of the week: Laurent Brossoit – 1-2-0 record, 73 saves on 79 shots (.924 SV%)
  • This week: Tue at CBJ, Thu vs NSH, Sat at MIN

Los Angeles Kings (20-8-3, 43 points)

  • Last week: 3-0-0 (5-2 W vs MIN, 4-3 OTW vs OTT, 3-2 OTW vs CAR)
  • Analysis: The Kings stayed hot last week – they’ve now won eight straight games and are running away with the Pacific Division. Los Angeles has it all – two outstanding goaltenders (Jonathan Quick and Darcy Kuemper), a Selke candidate (Anze Kopitar), a Norris candidate (Drew Doughty), and a resurgent Dustin Brown, who is on pace for his first 50-plus point season since the 2011-12 Stanley Cup championship campaign. Could the Kings potentially bring home the Cup once again this season?
  • Player of the week: Anze Kopitar – 2 goals, 5 assists, +7
  • This week: Tue at NJ, Fri at NYR, Sat at NYI
Anze Kopitar Los Angeles Kings
Anze Kopitar (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

San Jose Sharks (16-10-3, 35 points)

  • Last week: 2-1-1 (4-1 L at WSH, 5-4 OTW vs CAR, 5-0 W vs OTT, 4-3 OTL vs MIN)
  • Analysis: After struggling for most of the season, it appears as if the Sharks’ offense has finally broken through – San Jose generated 14 goals in four games last week and picked up five points in the standings as a result. Brent Burns, in particular, is red-hot – he’s recorded two points in each of his last three games and is making up for a slow start in a big way.
  • Player of the week: Brent Burns – 3 goals, 3 assists
  • This week: Thu at CGY, Fri at VAN

Vancouver Canucks (14-12-4, 32 points)

  • Last week: 1-2-0 (3-0 W vs CAR, 4-1 L vs PHI, 4-2 L at CGY)
  • Analysis: It was a strange week in Vancouver – the Canucks opened their week up with a 3-0 shutout victory over the Carolina Hurricanes, but then allowed four goals in each of their next two games to fall out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Vancouver needs to be better on home ice – their 5-6-3 home record is the fifth-worst in the league.
  • Player of the week: Jacob Markstrom – 1-1-0 record, 52 saves on 55 shots (.945 SV%), 1 shutout
  • This week: Mon at WPG, Wed vs NSH, Fri vs SJ, Sun vs CGY

Vegas Golden Knights (19-9-1, 39 points)

  • Last week: 3-0-0 (4-3 SOW vs ANA, 4-3 SOW at NSH, 5-3 W at DAL)
  • Analysis: The Golden Knights just keep on rolling – they were perfect in three games last week and are keeping pace with the red-hot Kings in the Pacific Division. We’re almost halfway through the season, folks – it’s time to start taking the Golden Knights seriously. They’re contenders in the Western Conference and will get Marc-Andre Fleury back this week, as the veteran netminder was activated from injured reserve on Sunday after missing 25 games with a concussion.
  • Player of the week: Erik Haula – 3 goals, 2 assists
  • This week: Tue vs CAR, Thu vs PIT, Sun vs FLA

It was a rough week for the Coyotes, but Sunday’s game marked the end of a brutal road stretch to start the season. Can Arizona turn things around at home this week?