Coyotes Weekly: Still Hanging Around

Don’t look now, but the injury-ravaged Arizona Coyotes, written off by many after losing no fewer than five key players to long-term ailments this season, are just two points out of a playoff spot after a 6-2-2 start to January.

With a nine-day break coming up, it’s not inconceivable to think that this is a team that’s capable of getting healthy and going on a big second-half run to earn its first playoff berth since the 2011-12 season.

Coyotes Week in Review

After getting blown out 7-1 in Calgary on Jan. 13, the Coyotes returned home to Glendale, where they began a short two-game homestand on Wednesday evening against the San Jose Sharks. A quick goal by Lawson Crouse in the first period, followed shortly thereafter by a shorthanded goal from Richard Panik, set the tone early and propelled the ‘Yotes to a big 6-3 victory over San Jose, snapping their rivals’ seven-game winning streak in the process.

Coyotes right wing Richard Panik
Richard Panik scored Arizona’s 12th shorthanded goal of the season in their 6-3 victory over San Jose on Wednesday. (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

The Pittsburgh Penguins then came to town on Friday evening, and the Coyotes shut down Pittsburgh’s potent offensive attack for just over 59 minutes of the contest. However, goals by Juuso Riikola and Jake Guentzel just 40 seconds apart in the second period were a killer, and, although Arizona forced overtime after a late goal from Derek Stepan, they were unable to survive a Richard Panik hooking penalty in the extra frame, as Phil Kessel deflected home a Sidney Crosby try to give the Pens a 3-2 overtime victory in the desert.

Pittsburgh Penguins Matt Murray Sidney Crosby
Matt Murray and Sidney Crosby were solid on Friday night at Gila River Arena. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Following a 1-0-1 mini-homestand, the Coyotes hit the road for their annual swing through Eastern Canada, starting on Sunday night in Toronto. The Coyotes held a 2-1 lead after two periods, but John Tavares scored his 30th of the season early in the third to tie the game. However, the Coyotes bounced back – a Vinnie Hinostroza goal gave Arizona the lead later in the third, and Lawson Crouse iced the game with this nifty empty-netter:

The Coyotes then headed to Canada’s capital city for a Tuesday night matchup against the Ottawa Senators. It’s been a tough few weeks for Eugene Melnyk’s team, but they gave the Coyotes some trouble in this one. However, Hinostroza’s three-point night was too much for the Sens to overcome, as No. 13 in white lit the lamp twice and recorded a helper as well to carry Arizona to a 3-2 victory at the Canadian Tire Centre. However, it wasn’t all good news in this one, as the team lost Oliver Ekman-Larsson to a lower-body injury – he’s still being evaluated

A Look Ahead

It’s a light week for the Coyotes, as they’ll play their last game before the All-Star break on Wednesday night in Montreal against Max Domi and the Canadiens. After picking up wins on the first two stops of their roadie, Arizona will be looking for the Eastern Canada sweep in this one, which is sure to be an exciting affair with Alex Galchenyuk making his first visit to Montreal since being traded over the summer. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 P.M. at the Bell Centre (5:00 P.M. in Arizona).

Arizona Coyotes Alex Galchenyuk
Alex Galchenyuk will make his return to the Bell Centre on Wednesday evening in Montreal. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Ross D. Franklin)

Pacific Division Roundup

As the first half of the season winds down, it’s become clear that we’re in for a wild second half – there currently are 12 teams that are either in the playoffs, or within three points of them. With the exception of a few teams who are pulling away from the rest of the pack (Calgary, we’re looking at you), it appears as if the Pacific Division’s playoff spots will be up for grabs all the way to Game 82.

Anaheim Ducks (21-20-9, 51 points)

  • Last week: 2-1-0 (3-0 W at MIN, 3-2 W at NJ, 3-0 L at NYI)
  • Analysis: After entering the week on a 12-game losing streak, the Ducks picked themselves up off the mat with two huge road victories in Minnesota and New Jersey last week to remain above .500 and in the Pacific Division playoff race. Is this the start of a turnaround for Randy Carlyle’s group?
  • Player of the week: John Gibson – 2-0-0 record, 66 saves on 68 shots (.971 SV%, 1.00 GAA), 1 shutout
  • This week: Wed vs STL
John Gibson Ducks
John Gibson allowed two goals in two games last week as he attempts to get his team back into the playoff conversation after a 12-game losing streak. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Calgary Flames (33-13-5, 71 points)

  • Last week: 3-0-1 (4-3 OTL vs BUF, 6-4 W vs DET, 5-2 W at EDM, 3-2 OTW vs CAR)
  • Analysis: Another week, another seven points for the Flames, who appear destined to run away with things in the Pacific this season. They’re the first team in the West to reach the 70-point mark and are only five points behind the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning – it has the potential to be a special season at the Saddledome.
  • Player of the week: Mark Giordano – 2 goals, 3 assists
  • This week: BYE

Edmonton Oilers (23-24-3, 49 points)

  • Last week: 1-3-0 (3-2 SOW at VAN, 5-2 L vs CGY, 7-4 L vs CAR, 3-2 W vs DET)
  • Analysis: The Most Inconsistent Team in the NHL™ had yet another highly entertaining week. Well, maybe it wasn’t so entertaining in Edmonton, but it sure was throughout the rest of the league. Days after giving goaltender Mikko Koskinen an absurd three-year, $13.5 million contract extension, general manager Peter Chiarelli was shown the door. There’s no way his tenure with the Oilers can be regarded as anything other than a complete and utter failure. He set the team back years and should have been fired when considering the Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson swap, but, as they say, better late than never?
  • Player of the week: Mikko Koskinen – 1-3-0 record, 88 saves on 101 shots (.871 SV%, 3.40 GAA), 0 shutouts, robbed $13.5 million and got away with it
  • This week: BYE

Los Angeles Kings (20-26-4, 44 points)

  • Last week: 2-1-0 (2-1 W at DAL, 7-1 L at COL, 4-3 W vs STL)
  • Analysis: Slowly but surely, the Kings continue to climb closer and closer to the .500 mark after a brutal start. The playoffs are still a long shot, though, and Los Angeles may be playing its way out of the Jack Hughes/Kaapo Kakko sweepstakes. Will this team be sellers at the deadline, or will they stand pat?
  • Player of the week: Anze Kopitar – Goal, 2 assists
  • This week: BYE

San Jose Sharks (29-16-7, 65 points)

  • Last week: 1-3-0 (6-3 L at ARI, 6-3 L at TB, 6-2 L at FLA, 7-6 OTW at WSH)
  • Analysis: The Sharks allowed six goals in each of their four games last week, but managed to pick up a 7-6 overtime win on Tuesday night after tying the game with under a second to go. They’re now off until Feb. 2 – they’ll have plenty of time to figure out the defense before then.
  • Player of the week: Evander Kane – 5 goals
  • This week: BYE
San Jose Sharks Evander Kane
San Jose Sharks Evander Kane celebrates with teammates (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Vancouver Canucks (23-21-6, 52 points)

  • Last week: 2-0-1 (3-2 SOL vs EDM, 4-3 W vs BUF, 3-2 W vs DET)
  • Analysis: The Canucks, 3-0-2 in their last five games, quietly are tied for a wild-card spot in the Western Conference. A win in their final game of the first half would put them in playoff position heading into the All-Star Break – something that seemed implausible after the retirements of Daniel and Henrik Sedin after last season.
  • Player of the week: Brock Boeser – Goal, 3 assists
  • This week: Wed vs CAR

Vegas Golden Knights (29-18-4, 62 points)

  • Last week: 1-1-0 (7-3 W vs PIT, 4-2 L vs MIN)
  • Analysis: At 3-3-0, Vegas hasn’t been bad over their last six games, but, in comparison to the top two teams in the Pacific, the Golden Knights are in a slump. The conference-leading Flames might be out of reach, but the Sharks are still just three points ahead – getting home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs should be the priority for Gerard Gallant’s group.
  • Player of the week: Jonathan Marchessault – 3 goals, assist, +1
  • This week: Wed vs NSH