Monday Morning Howl: Coyotes’ Nightmare Season Continues

Although they showed signs of improvement two weeks ago, the Arizona Coyotes took a few steps backward during their two games last week – let’s dive right into what was a disastrous week of blown leads in the Valley of the Sun.

Two Blown Leads for Coyotes

Edmonton Oilers defensemen Darnell Nurse
Darnell Nurse scored twice on Friday night to help the Oilers defeat the Coyotes, 4-2. (Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports)

After enjoying their bye week, the Coyotes got back to work on Friday night, when they hosted Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers at Gila River Arena. The well-rested ‘Yotes jumped all over Edmonton early, as they chased starter Cam Talbot with two goals in the game’s first 3:17. However, the Oilers came back to score two goals of their own later in the first period, and Darnell Nurse gave Edmonton their first lead early in the third period. Nurse’s tally, his second of the night, was the eventual game-winner, as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored a late empty-netter to give the Oilers a 4-2 victory – their first in regulation since Dec. 23.

The Coyotes then had a short turnaround before their next game, as they hopped on a flight to San Jose on Friday night for a matchup against the Sharks on Saturday. It was an interesting game in Silicon Valley, as both teams scored three goals in the first period. The Sharks took a 4-3 lead during the second period, but the ‘Yotes scored twice in the third period to open up a 5-4 lead. They were just a single empty-net goal away from earning a victory, but San Jose defended their net and tied the game with just 15.8 seconds remaining before picking up a win in overtime on this goal from Marc-Edouard Vlasic:

Coyotes Looking to Get Back on Track

After Saturday’s heartbreaking overtime loss in Northern California, the Coyotes will host the Sharks in Glendale on Tuesday night to complete the home-and-home between the teams. This will be San Jose’s final visit of the season to Arizona – they picked up a 3-1 victory back on Nov. 22 in a game where Antti Raanta left with an injury in the first period. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 P.M. at Gila River Arena.

Arizona will then hit the road once again and will begin a short two-game road trip against the Nashville Predators on Thursday in the Music City. You’ll remember that the Coyotes opened up the 2018 portion of their schedule against the Preds back on Jan. 4, and earned a come-from-behind 3-2 overtime victory in Glendale that night. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 P.M. local time (6:00 P.M. in Arizona) at Bridgestone Arena.

Ryan Ellis Predators
Ryan Ellis (Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

From there, the Coyotes will make the short trip westward to Missouri for a matchup against the St. Louis Blues. This has been a one-sided series in recent years – the Coyotes earned a point in their last meeting against St. Louis, but they’re still 0-11-1 in their last 12 against the Blues. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 P.M. local time (6:00 P.M. in Arizona) in the Gateway to the West.

Pacific Division Roundup

Half of the Pacific Division had their bye weeks last week, and the Vegas Golden Knights still hold a seven-point lead in the standings despite having played just once since Jan. 7. Here’s how Arizona’s other division rivals fared last week:

Anaheim Ducks (20-15-9, 49 points)

  • Last week: 1-0-0 (4-2 W at LA)
  • Analysis: The Ducks picked up a big 4-2 victory over the rival Kings on Saturday night at the Staples Center, and earned their 20th win of the season in the process. Anaheim now has points in five of their last six (4-1-1) and is looking like a serious playoff contender in the West at this point, assuming they can stay healthy.
  • Player of the week: Ondrej Kase – 2 goals, assist, +1
  • This week: Mon at COL, Wed vs PIT, Fri vs LA, Sun vs SJ
Ondrej Kase Ducks
Ondrej Kase, Anaheim Ducks, Oct. 24, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Calgary Flames (25-16-4, 54 points)

  • Last week: 4-0-0 (3-2 OTW at MIN, 5-1 W at TB, 4-2 W at FLA, 4-1 W at CAR)
  • Analysis: Don’t look now, but the Calgary Flames are on a roll – they’ve won seven straight games and have leapfrogged the Kings for second place in the Pacific. How far can goaltender Mike Smith take this team?
  • Player of the week: Mike Smith – 3-0-0 record, 104 saves on 108 shots (.963 SV%, 1.33 GAA)
  • This week: Sat vs WPG
Mike Smith Flames
Calgary Flames goalie Mike Smith (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

Edmonton Oilers (20-23-3, 43 points)

  • Last week: 2-1-0 (2-1 L at NSH, 4-2 W at AZ, 3-2 OTW at VGK)
  • Analysis: Just when you write the Oilers off, they come back and re-insert themselves into the conversation in the Western Conference. They managed to keep themselves afloat with comeback victories over the Coyotes and Golden Knights last week, but will need to continue playing at a high level in order to leapfrog Dallas, San Jose, Chicago, Colorado, and Anaheim in the playoff race.
  • Player of the week: Darnell Nurse – 3 goals, assist, +3
  • This week: Sat vs VAN

Los Angeles Kings (24-14-5, 53 points)

  • Last week: 0-1-0 (4-2 L vs ANA)
  • Analysis: Los Angeles returned from their bye week on Saturday, but they came out flat, falling behind the Ducks 3-0 before losing 4-2 on Bob Miller Appreciation Night at the Staples Center. The Kings are just 4-6-2 since Dec. 9 and will need to get things going once again in a hurry – they’ve fallen behind Calgary for third place in the Pacific and have just a three-point cushion for a playoff spot.
  • Player of the week: Anze Kopitar – Goal, 2 shots, won 13 of 22 faceoffs
  • This week: Mon vs SJ, Thu vs PIT, Fri at ANA, Sun vs NYR

San Jose Sharks (22-13-6, 50 points)

  • Last week: 1-0-0 (6-5 OTW vs AZ)
  • Analysis: The Sharks allowed five goals to the Coyotes on Saturday night, but they scored six themselves and earned their 22nd win of the season in comeback fashion. San Jose is still in good shape in the playoff race, but they’ll need Martin Jones to return to his early-season form, when he was a dominant force in net.
  • Player of the week: Joonas Donskoi – 2 goals, assist, +3
  • This week: Mon at LA, Tue at AZ, Thu at COL, Sat vs PIT, Sun at ANA
Joonas Donskoi Sharks
Joonas Donskoi, San Jose Sharks, Nov. 28, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Vancouver Canucks (18-21-6, 42 points)

  • Last week: 2-1-0 (3-1 L at WSH, 5-2 W at CBJ, 3-2 OTW at MIN)
  • Analysis: The Canucks will enter their bye week with a bit of momentum, as they picked up two big victories over the Blue Jackets and Wild to close out their week. They’re still in second-to-last place in the Pacific, but Vancouver appears to have righted the ship after a rough stretch.
  • Player of the week: Henrik Sedin – 4 assists, +3
  • This week: Sat at EDM, Sun at WPG

Vegas Golden Knights (29-10-3, 61 points)

  • Last week: 0-0-1 (3-2 OTL vs EDM)
  • Analysis: The Golden Knights played just once due to their bye week, but they managed to maintain their seven-point lead in the Pacific by earning a ‘loser point’ against Edmonton. Vegas now will embark upon a stretch where 10 of their next 12 games are away from the friendly confines of T-Mobile Arena.
  • Player of the week: Reilly Smith – Goal, +2, 4 shots
  • This week: Tue at NSH, Thu at TB, Fri at FLA, Sun at CAR

With games against three of the Western Conference’s better teams on tap this week, the Coyotes will have their work cut out for them.