The month of October is in the books for the Arizona Coyotes, and, for the first time since 2013-14, the team is multiple games above .500 after the season’s opening stanza.
There have been a few tricks in Arizona, but, for the most part, the season has been full of treats – the emergence of Nick Schmaltz, the continued development of Clayton Keller, and the solid play of Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta have been bright spots through the season’s first 12 games.
Here’s hoping we continue to see more of the same in November (and beyond).
Coyotes Week in Review
The Coyotes, after getting their four-game road trip started with an overtime victory over the New York Rangers on Oct. 22, continued on to Long Island on Thursday for a matchup at Nassau Coliseum against the Islanders. Arizona entered the game with a four-game winning streak, but they were unable to keep it alive in this one. New York scored just 1:25 in, and the Coyotes could not get the offense going until it was too late as they dropped a 4-2 decision to fall to 0-7-0 in their last seven road games against the Islanders.
The next night, the Coyotes were back in action against the New Jersey Devils, who had been off since Saturday. The Devils indeed looked like the more-rested team, as they scored twice in quick succession in the first period to open up a two-goal lead. However, the Coyotes came roaring back – Nick Schmaltz scored late in the opening period to cut New Jersey’s lead in half, then Michael Grabner scored shorthanded to tie the game. Pavel Zacha restored New Jersey’s lead later in the period, but Oliver Ekman-Larsson tickled the twine 31 seconds later to square things up again. Then, in the third frame, rookie Barrett Hayton scored the eventual game-winner in Arizona’s 5-3 triumph.
Arizona then made the trip to Upstate New York to finish out their road trip on Monday night against the Buffalo Sabres. Ralph Krueger’s group entered the game with an outstanding 9-2-1 record, and the Sabres indeed jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first period. However, as they did in New Jersey, the Coyotes came back, and Conor Garland had a lot to do with it. He scored with 1:10 to go in the opening period, then assisted on Carl Soderberg’s tying goal in the second frame. After a scoreless third period and overtime, the game went to a shootout, where Nick Schmaltz scored the only goal to give Arizona the win, and a 3-1-0 road trip.
The Coyotes then returned home and kicked off a two-game homestand against Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens. Price entered the game with an 11-1-0 record against Arizona in his career, and we saw more of the same on Wednesday evening in Glendale. Price was staked to a 1-0 lead just 22 seconds into the game, and the Coyotes never really threatened, losing 4-1 on home ice. With the win, Price raised his career save percentage against Arizona to .937, and lowered his goals-against average to 1.84.
A Look Ahead
After being shut down by Price, Arizona will host the Colorado Avalanche for another Kachina Saturday at Gila River Arena. The Avs got out to a 7-0-1 start this season, but they’ve since lost two-thirds of their top line to injury. Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog are both out with longer-term ailments, and Colorado could struggle on the offensive end of the ice without them. This one will get started at 6:00 P.M. in Glendale.
With another two-game homestand in the books, the Coyotes will once again hit the road, this time for two games in two nights in Alberta, starting on Monday in Edmonton. Former Coyotes head coach (and current Oilers bench boss) Dave Tippett has his team playing outstanding hockey this season. As always, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have been putting on shows nightly, but the Oilers boast solid defense and goaltending behind their superstars this season as well. They’re not a team to be taken lightly like they were in years past. This one will get started at 7:00 P.M. local time at Rogers Place.
The Coyotes will then make the short trip southward to Cowtown for a Tuesday night matchup against the Calgary Flames. It’s been a grind for the Flames this season – they’ve largely alternated wins with losses all year long. They’ve been unable to gain any positive momentum, and their goaltending has been susceptible. This is a vulnerable team right now, and the Coyotes need to take advantage of their division rival before they get things rolling. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 P.M. local time at the Saddledome.
Pacific Division Roundup
October is in the books, and there are a few new faces in the Pacific Division playoff picture this season. The Oilers occupy the top spot, while the Canucks, Ducks, and Coyotes also find themselves in playoff position. Here’s a look at where Arizona, at 7-4-1 and 15 points, stands amongst their division rivals:
Anaheim Ducks (8-6-0, 16 points)
- Last week: 2-2-0 (2-1 L at DAL, 5-2 W at COL, 5-2 L at VGK, 7-4 W vs WPG)
- Analysis: The Ducks have played sub-.500 hockey since their season-opening three-game win streak, but, for the most part, they’ve been competitive in 2019-20. That’s the only thing head coach Dallas Eakins should be looking for at this point – if Anaheim can avoid a long slump like they had last winter, the Ducks will hang around all season long.
- Player of the week: Ryan Getzlaf – 3 goals, assist, +2, 15 SOG
- This week: Fri vs VAN, Sun vs CHI, Tue vs MIN
Calgary Flames (6-6-2, 14 points)
- Last week: 1-1-1 (6-5 SOW vs FLA, 2-1 OTL vs WPG, 2-1 L at CAR)
- Analysis: Another week of inconsistency out of Calgary – David Rittich allowed five goals against Florida on Thursday, yet managed to get the win in a shootout anyway. He then allowed just two goals in each of his next two starts, but lost both of them. Such is life.
- Player of the week: Elias Lindholm – 2 goals, assist, +2
- This week: Thu at NSH, Sat at CBJ, Sun at WSH, Tue vs AZ
Edmonton Oilers (9-4-1, 19 points)
- Last week: 2-2-0 (4-3 OTW vs WSH, 6-2 L vs FLA, 3-1 L at DET, 4-1 W at CBJ)
- Analysis: The Oilers are just 4-4-1 since their perfect 5-0-0 start, but they’re still playing the game the right way under head coach Dave Tippett. Tippett won 50 games in his first year as head coach of the Coyotes back in 2009-10 – can he do the same in Edmonton this season?
- Player of the week: Leon Draisaitl – 6 goals, 3 assists, +4, 14 SOG
- This week: Sat at PIT, Mon vs AZ, Wed vs STL
Los Angeles Kings (4-9-0, 8 points)
- Last week: 0-4-0 (5-2 L at STL, 5-1 L at MIN, 5-1 L at CHI, 5-3 L vs VAN)
- Analysis: It was a nightmare week for the Kings, as they were outscored 20-7 over their four-game slate. It hasn’t mattered who the coach is – between Darryl Sutter, John Stevens, Willie Desjardins, and Todd McLellan, it has become clear that this just isn’t a good hockey team, and it could be a few more years before Los Angeles returns to respectability due to their salary cap constraints.
- Player of the week: Jeff Carter – 3 goals, 14 SOG
- This week: Sat vs CHI, Tue at TOR
San Jose Sharks (4-8-1, 9 points)
- Last week: 1-3-0 (4-2 W at MTL, 4-1 L at TOR, 5-2 L at OTT, 5-1 L at BOS)
- Analysis: Who could have seen this coming? After finishing with the league’s lowest 5-on-5 SV% last season (.897), the Sharks made no changes to the position over the summer, keeping both Martin Jones and Aaron Dell as the starter and backup, respectively. The result? An .887 5-on-5 SV% this season that ranks 28th in the league. Truly shocking. San Jose has allowed four or more goals in 9 of 13 games in 2019-20, and they will struggle to turn things around until they get better goaltending.
- Player of the week: Brent Burns – Goal, 4 assists
- This week: Fri vs WPG, Sat vs VAN, Tue vs CHI
Vancouver Canucks (8-3-1, 17 points)
- Last week: 2-0-1 (6-5 SOL vs WSH, 7-2 W vs FLA, 5-3 W at LA)
- Analysis: It’s still early, but it might be time to move the Canucks from the “sleeper” category to the “contender” category. Many, including myself, thought Vancouver would take a step forward this season, but I don’t think anyone saw this start coming. The Canucks own the league’s best goal differential at plus-17 and they look like they’re the real deal this season.
- Player of the week: Elias Pettersson – 2 goals, 6 assists, +2, 10 SOG
- This week: Fri at ANA, Sat at SJ, Tue vs STL
Vegas Golden Knights (8-5-0, 16 points)
- Last week: 1-1-0 (6-1 L vs COL, 5-2 W vs ANA)
- Analysis: The Knights played just twice last week, recording a blowout win along with a blowout loss. They’ve lost by three or more goals at T-Mobile Arena twice already this year – not ideal for a team that has relied heavily upon its home-ice advantage over the past two seasons.
- Player of the week: William Karlsson – 2 goals, 7 SOG
- This week: Thu vs MTL. Sat vs WPG, Tue at CBJ