The Arizona Coyotes didn’t play great last week, earning five points across four games, but, considering their brutal three-game trip to Minnesota from March 12-16 and the fact that the Colorado Avalanche were on the schedule twice, things went about as well as could be expected. However, the team lost another goaltender in the process, putting a damper on the week’s events. Let’s take a look back:
Coyotes Can’t Sustain Solid Start, Lose in OT
Fresh off of scoring one goal in three games against the Wild, the ‘Yotes headed to Orange County to play the final two contests of a seven-game road trip against the Anaheim Ducks, starting on Thursday, March 18 at the Honda Center.
The Ducks have occupied last place in the West Division for the better part of the last month, and the Coyotes were able to take advantage of them early. Less than 1:15 into the game, Arizona’s Conor Garland applied some pressure on Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler, and he turned the puck over in the corner to Nick Schmaltz. Schmaltz centered the puck to a waiting Garland, who was left all alone in front of the net, and No. 83 fired a one-timer past Ryan Miller from in tight to get the ‘Yotes on the board at the 1:13 mark.
The goal was Garland’s ninth of the year, which tied him for the team lead with Phil Kessel and Christian Dvorak. Not to be outdone, Clayton Keller also joined the party with his ninth of the season a few minutes later, and another Anaheim turnover led to the tally. Schmaltz pressured Anaheim’s Jani Hakanpaa as he attempted to clear the puck out of the corner, and he passed it right to Garland instead. The “Sniper from Scituate” immediately centered it out front to a waiting Keller, who ripped a wrist shot past Miller and a sliding Hakanpaa to double Arizona’s lead to 2-0.
The Coyotes led 2-0 after 20 minutes, but two quick milestone goals from Ducks’ rookies in Period 2 caused the lead to evaporate. Jamie Drysdale, the sixth overall pick of the 2020 draft, was making his NHL debut on the night and authored a memorable moment for himself and his teammates at the 12:01 mark. Drysdale got the puck along the blue line and walked it towards the center of the ice before firing one on net. There was a lot of traffic in front of goaltender Adin Hill, and the puck went off of Alex Goligoski and into the net to give the 18-year-old Ducks prospect his first NHL goal.
A few minutes later, Trevor Zegras, selected ninth overall by the Ducks in 2019, joined Drysdale in collecting his first NHL goal against the Coyotes. A lot of players’ first career goals in the NHL aren’t “pretty” ones, but this was a nice one for the 20-year-old. Troy Terry had the attention of both Niklas Hjalmarsson and Jordan Oesterle on the play, which allowed Zegras to sneak in behind Arizona’s defense. Terry fed Zegras the puck, and Trevor made a move before flicking a shot under Hill’s glove and into the net.
With the score still at 2-2 after 40 minutes, both teams had chances to take the lead in the final 20, but neither was able to solve the opposing goaltender. The Coyotes had a power-play chance late after a Jakob Silfverberg penalty at 17:33, but they were unable to convert. One second after their power play ended, Tyler Pitlick took a penalty of his own with 26 seconds remaining in the period. Arizona was able to survive regulation to earn an overtime point, but the Ducks would get the second point in this one, as Adam Henrique put a one-timer past Hill at the 47-second mark to give Anaheim the 3-2 win.
Brassard’s Hat Trick Lifts Coyotes
Two nights later, the Coyotes and Ducks were back in action at the Honda Center, and this one got out of hand early.
As was the case on Thursday, Arizona got on the board quickly against the Ducks on Saturday, as Derick Brassard tipped in a Jakob Chychrun shot 2:53 into the game after Anaheim failed to get the puck out across the blue line. Chychrun one-timed a weak Kevin Shattenkirk clearing attempt on net, and Brassard was, inexplicably, left all alone in front to deflect his fifth of the year past Miller.
A few moments later, Chychrun got on the board with a goal of his own – he once again intercepted an Anaheim clearing attempt at the blue line, and once again put a shot on goal. This time, no traffic was in front of the net, but the puck still found a way past Miller, and the Coyotes took an early 2-0 lead for the second time in as many games. They weren’t done there, though, as Brassard again redirected one past Miller later in the action at the 15:22 mark. With the Coyotes on a power play as a result of a Rickard Rakell tripping penalty, Brassard positioned himself in the slot with his stick on the ice. Captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson slid a perfect pass over to the veteran forward, and he made no mistake on the deflection for his second of the night, and third of the period for Arizona.
Miller was replaced by backup Anthony Stolarz during the first intermission, but it made no difference, as Brassard continued to dominate the Ducks from the moment the second period started, completing his hat trick just 36 seconds into the action. Brassard had a lot of time and space in the offensive zone after receiving a pass from Tyler Pitlick, and, after two prior deflection goals, he opted to blast a slapshot from the left faceoff dot this time around. Pitlick and Lawson Crouse were both in position to handle any rebound, but there was no need, as Brassard cleanly beat Stolarz to the blocker side for his second-career hat trick, and first in the regular season.
The lead would eventually reach 5-0, as Keller buried one from the slot 12:17 into the third period. The Ducks ended Antti Raanta’s shutout bid with just 5:33 left, but they got no closer, and the Coyotes took home three of four possible points in Anaheim with the 5-1 victory on Saturday night.
Avalanche Control Play, Dominate Coyotes
After wrapping up a seven-game road trip with a 2-3-2 record, the Coyotes returned home on Monday for a two-game set against the Avalanche. In their first home game in over two weeks, the ‘Yotes once again fell behind the Avs early, as Pierre-Edouard Bellemare got loose in front and one-timed a J.T. Compher centering pass into the net for his third of the year at 14:22 of the opening period. The Avs didn’t wait long to double their lead, as Mikko Rantanen beat Raanta over his left shoulder with a wrister from the right dot just 1:08 later to make it a 2-0 lead heading to the first intermission.
The Avalanche continued to dominate the play and generate high-danger scoring chances in Period 2, and noted Coyotes killer Nazem Kadri eventually gave Colorado a 3-0 lead around halfway through the action. Immediately after a clean faceoff win in the offensive zone, Kadri went to the netfront and tipped in an Andre Burakovsky shot for his 10th goal of the year. As time ran down, it looked like Arizona would be shut out for the third time in six games, but the Coyotes got on the board late in the third period with their second power-play goal in as many games, as Oliver Ekman-Larsson blasted a one-timer past Philipp Grubauer at 16:19 for his first goal of the season.
The Avs could have coasted to a 3-1 victory, but they instead made Arizona pay for spoiling the shutout bid – Joonas Donskoi put in an empty netter with 2:32 remaining, then added another goal with 10.9 seconds on the clock, beating Raanta blocker side after a nice pass from Tyson Jost, who had also assisted on the empty netter. Donskoi’s goals ended up being the cherries on top for Colorado, and they headed back to the team hotel with an easy 5-1 win on Monday evening.
Coyotes Win in Shootout, Stop Avs’ Win Streak
Less than 24 hours later, Colorado and Arizona squared off once again in Glendale in the teams’ sixth meeting of the season, and this one ultimately was an eventful, competitive affair.
With both clubs starting their backup goaltenders, the teams both managed to put a two-spot on the board in the opening period. Chychrun broke the ice for Arizona just 1:25 in, as he continued his career season with this seeing-eye shot for his ninth goal of the year:
A couple of minutes later, the Coyotes benefitted from another goal from their blue line. One night after Ekman-Larsson got the monkey off of his back by scoring his first of the year, 35-year-old Alex Goligoski did the same, coming down from his defense position to join the offense. Kessel spotted him creeping towards the net, and Goligoski smashed a one-timer into the net to give Arizona the 2-0 lead only 4:52 into the game.
As was to be expected, though, Colorado quickly awakened after sleepwalking through the first few minutes of the game. Captain Gabriel Landeskog continued his torrid pace at the offensive end of the ice, putting his own rebound past Adin Hill at the 17:47 mark, giving him a six-game point streak, and his 10th point over that stretch. Landeskog then added an assist later in the period, as Rantanen buried a Nathan MacKinnon centering pass after the captain had passed the puck in behind the net to No. 29.
After four goals went up on the board in the first period, the scoring pace slowed significantly in Period 2, and it appeared as if we might make it to the third period with the score still at 2-2. The Avalanche once again were able to generate multiple high-danger scoring chances throughout, but Hill was standing tall in the Arizona crease. That is, until MacKinnon struck for his 10th of the year with 10.4 seconds remaining as he fired a one-timer past Hill from the top of the slot. Late, lead-changing goals in periods tend to be back-breakers for teams, and the Avalanche indeed added to their advantage once the third period started, as Valeri Nichushkin redirected a Ryan Graves shot less than six minutes in to make the score 4-2.
The Coyotes could have folded at this point, as their two-goal lead had become a two-goal deficit in about 30 minutes of game time, but they quickly responded – Lawson Crouse put in a rebound goal 1:10 after Nichushkin’s tally to cut the lead to 4-3, and Kessel netted his 10th of the year just 2:03 after that. Earlier in the sequence, Phil the Thrill was denied by goaltender Jonas Johansson on a breakaway, but stayed with it and banked one in off of the netminder from a bad angle to knot the game up at four goals apiece.
Despite the four-goal outbursts by both teams on the opposition’s backup netminder, neither club could find another one before time expired in regulation, and we headed to 3-on-3 overtime as a result. During bonus hockey, the Coyotes were forced to kill a penalty after Schmaltz was whistled for slashing at 2:11, and Hill definitely lived up to the “your goaltender needs to be your best penalty-killer” adage here:
Hill’s efforts got the game to a shootout, and his teammates wouldn’t be denied on this night – Schmaltz, Garland, and Dvorak all converted their shootout chances, and the Coyotes earned a 5-4 win on Tuesday evening in Glendale.
Raanta Joins Kuemper on Injured Reserve
After the Coyotes lost starting goaltender Darcy Kuemper to injury in Colorado a few weeks ago, we wrote in this space about the importance of Antti Raanta’s continued health going forward this season.
Well, not even two weeks later, the oft-injured Raanta has ended up on the shelf once again, leaving the Coyotes with only their third and fourth-string netminders for possibly the next month (or perhaps longer). Raanta suffered some sort of lower-body injury in the 5-1 loss to the Avalanche on Monday, and is out week-to-week, per head coach Rick Tocchet. It’s likely that Raanta’s injury has come from the Coyotes relying heavily upon him to bail them out whenever he’s on the ice – in 10 starts this season, Raanta faced 34 or more shots in 8 of them.
At any rate, Raanta could be gone for the season, per Craig Morgan of AZ Coyotes Insider, and he’s possibly played his last game as a Coyote as well, as he likely won’t be brought back over the summer due to his lengthy injury history (from ‘Seven takeaways from a most unlikely Coyotes victory against the Colorado Avalanche’, Craig Morgan, AZ Coyotes Insider, 3/24/2021). With Kuemper on the comeback trail and reportedly still a few weeks away from a return, Hill and 22-year-old Ivan Prosvetov are the next men up in the blue paint for Arizona. Hill is a familiar face for Coyotes fans – he’s been in the organization for many years now and has seen NHL action in each of the last four campaigns. His career-high for appearances in an NHL season is 13, and it looks like he’ll easily surpass that number in 2020-21, barring an injury.
Prosvetov, Arizona’s current backup, has not yet appeared in an NHL game and is in the midst of just his second professional season. The Moscow, Russia native started the year at No. 4 on the organization’s goaltending depth chart, so it’s possible that he’ll play only sparingly the rest of the way, perhaps in back-to-back situations, with Hill carrying the load. Hill has proven to be up to the task this season when he’s seen action – he saved the day on Feb. 24 after Kuemper left with an injury, making 14 saves in relief in Arizona’s 4-3 shootout win over the Ducks, and he was instrumental in the Coyotes’ win over the Avs on Tuesday, despite his .897 save percentage not looking all that impressive on paper.
If Hill and Prosvetov aren’t able to keep the Coyotes afloat down the home stretch, it’s possible that general manager Bill Armstrong could make a move for a goaltender before the April 12 trade deadline, but that seems unlikely. Arizona is currently four points out of a playoff spot, but they can’t really spare any draft-pick assets to acquire a starting-caliber goaltender that would be better than Hill. Thus, it’s likely going to be Hill, Prosvetov, and potentially Kuemper the rest of the way – this will be a good opportunity for Hill to make a name and keep the ‘Yotes in playoff contention. Will the 24-year-old be able to get it done? The journey starts on Friday night in Glendale.
This week, the Coyotes will play a pair of home games against the San Jose Sharks to begin the weekend before heading out on another long road trip, starting on Wednesday in Colorado.
When it comes to San Jose – if it feels like it has been a while since you’ve seen the Coyotes take on the Sharks, you’d be correct. The Friday and Saturday back-to-back at Gila River Arena will be the teams’ first meeting since the opening series of the year back on Jan. 14-16. Arizona lost Game 1 in a shootout in the home opener before bouncing back to earn a 5-3 win in the second contest.
In the final game of the week, Arizona will travel to the Mile High City for more hockey against the Avalanche. These teams have met 6 times in the last 28 days, and they’ll make it 7 meetings in 33 days on Wednesday. The Avs have most decidedly been the vastly superior team on the ice this season, but, if the Coyotes can win this one, they’ll somehow find themselves with a 3-3-1 record against their West Division rival in 2020-21.
It’s getting down to crunch time for the ‘Yotes – if they’re going to make a push for the No. 4 spot and attempt to knock the struggling St. Louis Blues from their playoff position, they’re going to need to go on a run. As we discussed, two games against the Sharks will provide ample opportunity for Arizona to rack up some points. The matchup on Wednesday in Denver is a tough one on paper, but the Avs are locked in a struggle with Vegas and Minnesota for the top spot in the West Division. It’s possible the Coyotes could take advantage here against a team that could be looking ahead.
Here’s a look at this week’s schedule and start times:
- Friday, March 26 vs Sharks, 7:00 PM
- Saturday, March 27 vs Sharks, 7:00 P.M.
- Wednesday, March 31 at Avalanche, 7:30 P.M. local time (6:30 P.M. in Arizona)
West Division Roundup
Three teams have emerged as bona fide playoff clubs in the West Division this season – barring a collapse by one of them, this leaves just a single spot for the remaining five clubs to fight over. Here’s a look at Arizona’s division foes:
Anaheim Ducks (9-19-6, 24 pts, last place)
- Last week: 1-3-0 (3-2 OTW vs AZ, 5-1 L vs AZ, 2-1 L at MIN, 3-2 L at MIN)
- Analysis: Things continued to go downhill for the Ducks last week – they managed to pick up an OT victory over the Coyotes after staging a two-goal comeback, but that’s their only win in their last eight games. They’re one of just two teams in the league who have yet to reach the double-digits in wins, along with the Buffalo Sabres. It’s never a good thing to be mentioned in the same breath with a team that’s lost 16 in a row.
- Player of the week: Troy Terry – Goal, 2 assists, +1
- This week: Fri at STL, Sun at STL, Mon at COL
Colorado Avalanche (21-8-3, 45 pts, 2nd place)
- Last week: 4-0-1 (5-1 W vs MIN, 6-0 W vs MIN, 5-1 W at AZ, 5-4 SOL at AZ, 5-1 W vs VGK)
- Analysis: The Avalanche might be the hottest team in the league at the moment – since March 1, they’re 10-1-2 and are outshooting the opposition by an average of 16 shots per game. They’ve had multiple periods with more than 20 SOG during that time, and their 25-shot outburst during the first period on March 18 against the Wild was especially impressive. Can they sustain this into the playoffs, or will they run out of steam before then?
- Player of the week: Gabriel Landeskog – 4 goals, 7 assists, +5, 17 SOG
- This week: Sat vs VGK, Mon vs ANA, Wed vs AZ
Los Angeles Kings (13-13-6, 32 pts, 6th place)
- Last week: 1-3-0 (4-2 L vs VGK, 3-1 W vs VGK, 2-1 L at SJ, 4-2 L at SJ)
- Analysis: LA’s slide continued last week, and the Kings have now fallen back to the .500 mark for the first time in over a month as a result. Los Angeles had a six-game winning streak from Feb. 11-24, but they’ve won just 4 times over the following 14 games (4-7-3). The team has shown flashes, but it seems they’re much too inconsistent this season to do anything more than play spoiler the rest of the way.
- Player of the week: Cal Petersen – 1-1-0 record, 65 saves on 70 shots (.929 SV%, 2.52 GAA)
- This week: Mon at VGK, Wed at VGK
Minnesota Wild (21-10-1, 43 pts, 3rd place)
- Last week: 3-2-0 (5-1 L at COL, 6-0 L at COL, 2-1 W vs ANA, 3-2 W vs ANA, 2-0 W vs STL)
- Analysis: The Wild have had little success on the road as of late, with just one win in their last six away games, but their record on home ice has more than made up for it. Thursday’s 2-0 win over the Blues at the Xcel Energy Center was their 11th in a row at home, which is a franchise record. In case you were wondering, the NHL record is 23 in a row, set by the 2011-12 Detroit Red Wings.
- Player of the week: Cam Talbot – 3-1-0 record, 139 saves on 147 shots (.946 SV%, 2.00 GAA), 1 shutout
- This week: Mon at SJ, Wed at SJ
San Jose Sharks (13-14-4, 30 pts, 7th place)
- Last week: 2-1-1 (2-1 SOL vs STL, 5-2 L vs STL, 2-1 W vs LA, 4-2 W vs LA)
- Analysis: Don’t look now, but the Sharks are slowly climbing back toward .500 thanks to some solid goaltending from Martin Jones. The 31-year-old netminder has caught a ton of heat from the fans and media (myself included) in recent years, but Jones has been on fire lately, with a 3-0-1 record and a .966 SV% in his last four starts. His save percentage on the year has even climbed above .900 – is this the start of a career renaissance, or just another flash in the pan?
- Player of the week: Martin Jones – 2-0-1 record, 116 saves on 120 shots (.967 SV%, 1.30 GAA)
- This week: Fri at AZ, Sat at AZ, Mon vs MIN, Wed vs MIN
St. Louis Blues (16-12-5, 37 pts, 4th place)
- Last week: 2-2-0 (2-1 SOW at SJ, 5-2 W at SJ, 5-1 L at VGK, 2-0 L at MIN)
- Analysis: The Blues continued to trend in the wrong direction last week – they defeated San Jose twice, but lost by a combined score of 7-1 against Vegas and Minnesota, who are teams that St. Louis could face in the playoffs. The two wins over the Sharks are the Notes’ only wins in the last three weeks, as they’re 2-4-3 in their last nine. If this slide continues, the Coyotes or Kings are well within range to knock the Blues out of the playoff picture.
- Player of the week: David Perron – Goal, 3 assists, +4, 14 SOG
- This week: Fri vs ANA, Sun vs ANA
Vegas Golden Knights (22-8-1, 45 pts, 1st place)
- Last week: 2-2-0 (4-2 W at LA, 3-1 L at LA, 5-1 W vs STL, 5-1 L at COL)
- Analysis: The Golden Knights had an up-and-down week – they were on both ends of two close games, and they were on both ends of blowouts as well. Thursday’s loss, in particular, was concerning for Vegas, as they lost 5-1 to the Avalanche while generating only 19 shots on Philipp Grubauer. Vegas will likely have to beat Colorado in the playoffs to get back to the Stanley Cup Final, and they’re just 2-3-0 against the Avs in 2020-21. Will general manager Kelly McCrimmon make a move to bolster his roster before the April 12 trade deadline?
- Player of the week: Mark Stone – 2 goals, 3 assists, +3
- This week: Sat at COL, Mon vs LA, Wed vs LA, Thu vs MIN
A lifelong Phoenix resident, Louis has been following hockey since 2010, has covered the Arizona Coyotes since 2015, and has been playing hockey since 2020. So far, Louis has visited eight NHL cities, and one of his personal goals is to eventually make it to all 31 NHL arenas. For any questions or concerns, contact the writer via Twitter @LouisPannone.