Last week, we touched on how important it would be for the Arizona Coyotes to get off to a good start in the second half of the season if they had serious aspirations of making a run at a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Well, after a 0-2-1 road trip in the first week of play following the All-Star Break, it’s safe to say things aren’t off to a great start.
Coyotes Week in Review
After a nine-day layoff from game action due to the All-Star Break, the Coyotes traveled to the site of the All-Star Game, San Jose, and began a three-game roadie against the Sharks on Saturday night at the SAP Center. Conor Garland scored his 10th goal of the season during the second period to break the ice, but the Sharks then scored twice in 44 seconds to open up a 2-1 lead. Josh Archibald provided the equalizer in the third period, but the Coyotes couldn’t earn the extra point in overtime, as Brent Burns buried the game-winner off of a solid individual effort to give the Sharks the 3-2 victory.
Following their visit to Northern California, the Coyotes traveled to the Lone Star State on Monday for their first matchup against the Dallas Stars since Opening Night back on Oct. 4. Dallas had won four consecutive games entering this one, and they kept on rolling against Rick Tocchet’s group. The Coyotes held a 2-1 lead after two periods, but three Dallas goals in 1:11 to start the third period were the difference in the game. The Coyotes bounced back to tie it up shortly after Dallas’ three quick-strike tallies, but they were unable to keep the Stars off of the scoreboard the rest of the way, as Tyler Seguin scored the game-winner at 12:28 to give Dallas a 5-4 victory in regulation.
The Coyotes then headed to the Music City to complete the second night of a back-to-back against the Nashville Predators. Arizona again held an early lead in this one after Vinnie Hinostroza scored the only goal of the first period, but Nashville mounted a furious comeback following a failed Coyotes 5-on-3 chance in the second frame, scoring five of the next six goals to take home an easy 5-2 victory.
A Look Ahead
After wrapping up a crazy road trip consisting of three games in four nights in three different cities, the Coyotes will return home for a short two-game homestand, which will get started on Thursday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Blue Jackets, like the Coyotes, are desperate for points, as they’re clinging to the final wild-card spot in the East by just a three-point margin. This one between two playoff hopefuls will get started in Glendale at the usual weeknight game time of 7:00 P.M.
The Coyotes, fresh off of a disappointing loss in Dallas on Monday, will get a rematch with the Stars on Saturday afternoon at Gila River Arena. Following two prior losses in Dallas this season, Arizona will be looking to avoid the season sweep in this one, which will get started at 2:00 P.M. in the Grand Canyon State. The Coyotes also quietly have lost nine consecutive games against the Stars – can they end the streak?
Following their short two-game homestand, the Coyotes will make their first trip of the season to Sin City as they’ll take on the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday evening. The Coyotes have beaten Vegas just once so far, with the only win coming on T-Mobile Arena ice back on Mar. 28, 2018. Can Arizona get their second win against their new desert rivals? Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 P.M. local time on The Strip (8:00 P.M. in Arizona).
Coyotes Struggling on Power Play
The Coyotes are still hanging around in the playoff race in the Western Conference, but their chances of returning to the postseason for the first time in seven years will remain slim as long as their power play remains atrocious, as it has been over the past few weeks.
Since scoring a power play goal in an overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Jan. 18, the Coyotes are just 1-for-20 with the man advantage over their ensuing six games, with the lone goal coming via Conor Garland in a 2-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Jan. 23.
Obviously, those numbers aren’t good enough. Not even close. Especially when considering that a five-minute major and multiple 5-on-3 chances were included in the 20 opportunities. The power play and its inability to come through in clutch moments is costing this team valuable points in the standings.
What’s the solution? Well, the Coyotes need more from their depth players. As expected, Clayton Keller, Alex Galchenyuk, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson are the leaders in power play points (PPP), but guys like Derek Stepan, Richard Panik, and Christian Fischer, who all have played more than 100 power play minutes this season, need to step up.
Stepan, who has played 144:16 on the power play – an average of 2:43 per game – has just two PPP. Panik, who has played 102:21, has two power play assists. Fischer, who has been on the ice for 101:46 while the Coyotes have been up a man, hasn’t been on the scoresheet yet.
Fischer is, as of this writing, the only player in the NHL to have zero PPP while playing more than 100 power play minutes. Rounding out the bottom five are Nashville’s Viktor Arvidsson, Los Angeles’ Tyler Toffoli, Stepan, and Panik. That’s right – the Coyotes have three of the league’s five lowest-scoring power-play regulars.
That’s not going to get it done.
Pacific Division Roundup
How top-heavy is the Western Conference this year? The last-place Los Angeles Kings are only six points back of a playoff spot, while the Anaheim Ducks, who have won twice since Dec. 17, are only three points out of a wild-card spot. With so many teams clustered so tightly together in the standings, these next two months should be highly entertaining out West.
Anaheim Ducks (21-24-9, 51 points)
- Last week: 0-3-0 (9-3 L at WPG, 6-1 L at TOR, 4-1 L at MTL)
- Analysis: Anaheim’s earlier 12-game losing streak this season was rough, but the team was at least competitive in most of those games, as they picked up four overtime losses to go with eight regulation defeats during the skid. Their current five-game losing streak may be rock bottom, though – the Ducks have been outscored 27-6 over their last 15 periods of hockey, and a 9-3 loss in Winnipeg on Saturday during which Anaheim allowed six first-period goals might have been the worst performance by a team in the league this season. Former Vezina candidate John Gibson has been chased in three consecutive starts, and allowed seven goals on nine shots in the All-Star Game as well. He’s been the Ducks’ on-ice leader all season long, and the team appears to be rudderless without their goaltender standing on his head.
- Player of the week: No one
- This week: Thu at OTT, Sat at PIT
Calgary Flames (34-14-5, 73 points)
- Last week: 1-1-0 (4-3 L at WSH, 4-3 W at CAR)
- Analysis: The Flames suffered a 4-3 loss to the Washington Capitals last Friday in their first game in 10 days, then rebounded to earn a 4-3 victory in Raleigh against the Carolina Hurricanes to remain 20 games above the .500 mark. They’re still the leaders in the Pacific, but the Sharks are gaining ground quickly. Will general manager Brad Treliving make a move to add a goaltender at the deadline, or will he stand pat with Mike Smith and David Rittich in goal?
- Player of the week: Derek Ryan – Goal, 2 assists, +1
- This week: Thu vs SJ, Sat at VAN, Tue at TB
Edmonton Oilers (23-25-5, 51 points)
- Last week: 0-1-2 (5-4 OTL at PHI, 4-3 OTL at MTL, 6-2 L vs CHI)
- Analysis: It’s officially Jersey Tossing Season in Edmonton, as The Most Inconsistent Team in the NHL™ suffered their fourth, fifth, and sixth consecutive defeats last week. Fans showed their disapproval during Tuesday’s 6-2 loss at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks by continuing an Edmonton tradition of littering the ice with jerseys. Okay, maybe only a handful of jerseys were thrown in this occurrence, but the Oil are trending in a bad direction in the second half of the season yet again. What will interim general manager Keith Gretzky do at the trade deadline to address things before Connor McDavid misses the playoffs for the third time in four seasons? Psst, Oilers fans – Sidney Crosby appeared in his second Stanley Cup Final during his fourth season. Just thought I’d remind you.
- Player of the week: Connor McDavid – 2 goals, 3 assists, +1
- This week: Thu at MIN, Sat vs SJ
Los Angeles Kings (22-27-4, 48 points)
- Last week: 2-1-0 (4-2 L at NYI, 4-3 OTW at NYR, 5-1 W at NJ)
- Analysis: The Kings, even in last place in the West, are only six points out of the playoffs – something that would have been unthinkable a month ago. They already unloaded Jake Muzzin, but could a hot streak before the deadline convince general manager Rob Blake to hang onto his other assets?
- Player of the week: Anze Kopitar – 2 goals, 4 assists, +2
- This week: Thu at PHI, Sat at BOS, Mon at WSH
San Jose Sharks (31-16-7, 69 points)
- Last week: 2-0-0 (3-2 OTW vs AZ, 3-2 OTW at WPG)
- Analysis: The Sharks allowed six goals or more in four consecutive games prior to the All-Star Break, but they appear to have worked out those kinks in their defense, as they allowed two goals in each of their 3-2 overtime victories last week. San Jose now has a nice five-point cushion on the Vegas Golden Knights with a game in hand – their attention is likely now turned to the Flames as the Sharks eye their first division title since 2010-11. What will general manager Doug Wilson do as the trade deadline approaches?
- Player of the week: Martin Jones – 2-0-0 record, 56 saves on 60 shots (.933 SV%, 1.91 GAA)
- This week: Thu at CGY, Sat at EDM, Mon at VAN
Vancouver Canucks (24-24-6, 54 points)
- Last week: 1-2-0 (5-1 W at COL, 2-1 L at PHI, 3-2 L at WSH)
- Analysis: The Canucks, despite regulation losses in three of their last four games, are still hanging onto the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference. They’re largely doing so without major contributions from Elias Pettersson, who has “only” five points in six games since returning from injury. If he gets hot again like he was earlier in the season, watch out.
- Player of the week: Jacob Markstrom – 1-2-0 record, 90 saves on 96 shots (.938 SV%, 2.06 GAA)
- This week: Thu at CHI, Sat vs CGY, Mon vs SJ
Vegas Golden Knights (30-21-4, 64 points)
- Last week: 1-2-0 (5-2 L at CAR, 3-1 at FLA, 3-2 SOW at TB)
- Analysis: Vegas’ losing streak reached four on Saturday night after a 3-1 loss to the Florida Panthers, but the Golden Knights got back on the right track on Tuesday night with a shootout victory over the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning. The Knights must improve their road record if they wish to make a repeat appearance in the Stanley Cup Final, though, especially if they fail to catch the San Jose Sharks for the No. 2 spot in the Pacific.
- Player of the week: Shea Theodore – 2 goals, 12 shots
- This week: Thu at DET, Sat vs CBJ, Tue vs AZ