From all of us at The Hockey Writers, we hope everyone out there enjoyed a very happy Thanksgiving with their friends and families on Thursday.
So far in 2019-20, the Arizona Coyotes have had a lot to be thankful for – their outstanding goaltending and defense has led the way to a 15-8-3 start through Thanksgiving, marking the first time since the 2013-14 season that the Coyotes had 15 wins by the fourth Thursday in November.
Coyotes Week in Review
Fresh off of back-to-back 3-0 shutout victories, the Coyotes got their week started on Thursday, Nov. 21, when Scottsdale native Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs came to town. The organization had fired head coach Mike Babcock on Wednesday and replaced him with Toronto Marlies’ bench boss Sheldon Keefe, so the Coyotes got the Maple Leafs’ best effort on Thursday night with Keefe behind the bench. Tyson Barrie scored with less than a minute remaining in the opening period, Pierre Engvall added a shorthanded marker late in the second, and Auston Matthews added the cherry on top in the third frame as Toronto rolled to an easy 3-1 victory in Glendale.
From there, the Coyotes headed west to the Staples Center to take on the Los Angeles Kings for the second time in six days. After pitching a shutout against Todd McLellan’s group on Monday, Antti Raanta again got the start on Saturday afternoon, and, again, he stood on his head and frustrated the Kings. Phil Kessel, Lawson Crouse, and Christian Fischer all scored for Arizona, and Raanta made 43 saves on 45 shots as the Coyotes narrowly escaped from Southern California with a 3-2 triumph.
The Coyotes then returned back home to Glendale for a two-game homestand starting on Sunday evening against Dave Tippett and the Edmonton Oilers. The club welcomed Tippett, who coached the Coyotes from 2009 to 2017, back to Gila River Arena with a nice intermission tribute video. Tippett was at the helm for the franchise’s greatest triumph in 2011-12, so he’ll always be held with high regard in the Valley of the Sun.
On the ice, it didn’t take long for Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl to strike – with Nick Schmaltz in the box serving a penalty for too many men, McDavid and Draisaitl picked up assists on James Neal’s first-period power-play goal at 2:05, which came just 24 seconds into the minor penalty. The Coyotes then scored three of the game’s next four goals and held a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes, but Markus Granlund won a battle against Jordan Oesterle and Ilya Lyubushkin late in the third and scored the tying goal. In overtime, McDavid and Draisaitl were both on the ice for four minutes, but they could not score on Darcy Kuemper, and the game headed to the shootout, where McDavid did beat Kuemper for the only goal to give Edmonton a 4-3 win.
The Coyotes and Oilers have played twice this season, and Arizona has held McDavid (1-1-2) and Draisaitl (0-2-2) to just four total points during those contests. It seems like Rick Tocchet and his staff have figured out a formula to slow down the NHL’s two most prolific scorers, but, if these teams happen to meet in the playoffs, Arizona needs to do a better job against Edmonton’s depth scorers – they were burned by Gaetan Haas late in the third period in Edmonton on Nov. 4, and surrendered goals to Alex Chiasson and Markus Granlund in Glendale on Sunday.
Arizona then closed out their week on Wednesday evening with a visit from the Anaheim Ducks. Christian Dvorak scored twice in the first period to give the Coyotes a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes, but Anaheim’s young guns took over from there – 21-year-old Sam Steel tied the game in the second period, and 22-year-old Troy Terry (of 2017 World Junior Championships fame) scored at exactly 10:00 of the third period to give the Ducks the lead.
It didn’t take the Coyotes long to respond, though – Alex Goligoski fired a slapshot that deflected off of the rear end of Anaheim defenseman Hampus Lindholm and past goaltender John Gibson to tie the game only 38 seconds later. The game headed to overtime and, eventually, to a shootout, where Dvorak scored the winner to give Arizona the 4-3 win in their last game before Thanksgiving.
A Look Ahead
After enjoying American Thanksgiving on Thursday, the Coyotes will be back in action on Friday afternoon in Sin City when they’ll travel to take on the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena. The Golden Knights have been one of the league’s better home teams since starting play in 2017, but the Coyotes have won three straight at “the Fortress” – can they keep the streak alive in this one? Puck drop is scheduled for 3:00 P.M. local time on the Strip (4:00 P.M. in Arizona).
Following their business trip to Vegas, the Coyotes will return to the Valley of the Sun for a home game against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night. The Sharks have been playing some good hockey as of late – they’ve won 9 of their last 11 and have climbed back into contention after an absolutely brutal start. Arizona will need to be sharp in this one, which will begin at 6:00 P.M. in Glendale.
The Coyotes will then head out on a four-game roadie to begin December, starting on Tuesday evening against the Columbus Blue Jackets. These two teams met in Glendale back on Nov. 7, with CBJ coming away with a 3-2 regulation victory at Gila River Arena. The Coyotes will be looking to salvage a draw in the season series in this one, which will get started at 7:00 P.M. local time at Nationwide Arena (5:00 P.M. in Arizona).
Pacific Division Roundup
Well, we’ve reached the “Thanksgiving cutoff” and the Coyotes are comfortably in a playoff spot.
With that, the club will be doing a lot more scoreboard watching this winter and spring than they have in a long time – here’s a look at how Arizona’s division rivals fared last week:
Anaheim Ducks (11-11-4, 26 points)
- Last week: 1-1-2 (5-4 OTL at FLA, 6-2 L at TB, 3-0 W vs NYI, 4-3 SOL at AZ)
- Analysis: Since Oct. 19, only the Buffalo Sabres and Detroit Red Wings have fewer points than the Anaheim Ducks, who are just 5-9-4 since their 6-2-0 start. Last year, a 2-15-4 stretch through December and January killed their season – can the Ducks get out of their current 2-5-4 slide before it gets out of hand?
- Player of the week: Cam Fowler – Goal, 5 assists, +1, 9 SOG
- This week: Fri vs WPG, Mon vs LA
Calgary Flames (12-12-4, 28 points)
- Last week: 2-1-1 (5-0 L at STL, 3-2 SOW at PHI, 3-2 OTL at PIT, 3-2 OTW at BUF)
- Analysis: It was an eventful week off the ice in Calgary, but the Flames, to their credit, held it together and managed to right the ship by earning five of eight possible points on a four-game road trip. With Bill Peters now gone, the club will play seven of their next nine on home ice – can the Flames go on a run at the Saddledome, where they’re 6-3-2 this season?
- Player of the week: Matthew Tkachuk – Goal, 2 assists, +1, 9 SOG
- This week: Sat vs OTT, Thu vs BUF
Edmonton Oilers (16-8-3, 35 points)
- Last week: 2-2-0 (5-1 L at LA, 4-2 W at VGK, 4-3 SOW at AZ, 4-1 L at COL)
- Analysis: The Oilers are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games, which is good, but we’ve seen some games where the club looks like the “old Oilers” as of late. Their last five losses have come by 4-1, 5-1, 5-4, 6-3, and 5-2 margins. Edmonton needs to be more consistent if they wish to sustain this success in 2019-20.
- Player of the week: Connor McDavid – 3 goals, assist, 14 SOG
- This week: Sat vs VAN, Sun at VAN, Wed vs OTT
Los Angeles Kings (10-13-2, 22 points)
- Last week: 2-1-1 (5-1 W vs EDM, 3-2 L vs AZ, 4-3 OTL vs SJ, 4-1 W vs NYI)
- Analysis: The Kings have been playing better hockey as of late, as they’re 5-2-1 since Nov. 9, but they may have put themselves in too big of a hole to climb out of. However, as we saw with last year’s St. Louis Blues, no one is really out of it in the NHL until they’re officially eliminated.
- Player of the week: Anze Kopitar – 3 goals, 2 assists, +1, 8 SOG
- This week: Fri at SJ, Sat vs WPG, Mon at ANA, Wed vs WSH
San Jose Sharks (13-12-1, 27 points)
- Last week: 3-1-0 (2-1 OTW at VGK, 2-1 OTW vs NYI, 4-3 OTW at LA, 5-1 L vs WPG)
- Analysis: The Sharks lived on the edge last week, winning three games in overtime before falling 5-1 to the Winnipeg Jets to close out the week. The club has risen from the absolute dead with a 9-2-0 run in their last 11 games, but it remains to be seen if they can sustain this success.
- Player of the week: Martin Jones – 2-0-0 record, 60 saves on 64 shots (.938 SV%, 1.92 GAA)
- This week: Fri vs LA, Sat at AZ, Tue vs WSH
Vancouver Canucks (12-10-4, 28 points)
- Last week: 2-2-0 (6-3 W at NSH, 2-1 SOW at WSH, 2-1 L at PHI, 8-6 L at PIT)
- Analysis: Vancouver is still hanging around in the standings thanks to their 9-3-2 start, but they have not been a good hockey team in November – they’re 3-7-2 since Nov. 2 and will need to straighten things out in order to avoid another year of early April tee times.
- Player of the week: Quinn Hughes – 7 assists, 7 SOG
- This week: Sat at EDM, Sun vs EDM, Tue vs OTT
Vegas Golden Knights (12-11-4, 28 points)
- Last week: 1-2-1 (2-1 OTL vs SJ, 4-2 L vs EDM, 4-2 L at DAL, 4-3 OTW at NSH)
- Analysis: The Golden Knights salvaged a brutal week with an extraordinary comeback victory over the Nashville Predators on Wednesday night in the Music City. Max Pacioretty scored with 0.3 seconds remaining in regulation, and Paul Stastny scored in overtime to get Vegas two badly needed points. Could that have been a turning point in their season after a rather pedestrian 11-11-4 start?
- Player of the week: Max Pacioretty – Goal, 2 assists, 12 SOG
- This week: Fri vs AZ, Mon at NYR, Tue at NJ