The Arizona Coyotes didn’t play great hockey over their last 120 minutes of action, but they still managed to escape with three points during their two-game series against the Colorado Avalanche. However, they lost their starting goaltender in the process – let’s take a look back at this week’s events on the ice:
Coyotes Dominated, but Earn Two Points
Following their big 5-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Saturday at Gila River Arena, the Coyotes headed out on a seven-game road trip starting on Monday night against the Avalanche at Denver’s Ball Arena.
Arizona had little success against the Avs during the previous two meetings between these clubs in Glendale, as they were outscored 9-4 and outshot 70-43 in the two-game series Feb. 26-27. They got out to a better start in this one, though, as Derick Brassard beat Colorado goaltender Philipp Grubauer for a power-play goal less than five minutes into the game to give the ‘Yotes the opening goal of the contest. Brassard’s wrister from the right faceoff dot deflected off of Samuel Girard’s stick in front, and the puck slid through Grubauer’s five-hole to give Brassard his fourth of the year.
Later in the period, the ‘Yotes struck again to double their lead – Arizona kept Colorado pinned in their own zone during a solid shift, and the puck found its way to Jakob Chychrun, who walked it to the top of the slot and let a wrister go from out high. The shot ultimately deflected off of Devon Toews’ stick and knuckleballed past a screened Grubauer for Chychrun’s seventh of the year, and gave Arizona the 2-0 lead entering the first intermission.
Facing a 2-0 deficit despite outshooting Arizona 9-4 in the opening 20 minutes, Colorado kept its foot on the gas in the second period and were rewarded midway through the action, when Valeri Nichuskin was able to get open right in front of Darcy Kuemper and ripped a one-timer past the Coyotes’ netminder to make the score 2-1. Just over five minutes later, the Avs struck again – with Frederik Gauthier in the box for tripping, Andre Burakovsky unleashed a wrister from the left faceoff dot that beat Kuemper to the glove side to tie the game at two goals apiece.
The same score existed when these teams headed to the third period, but the game took a turn when Kuemper went down with an injury just 2:20 into the action. The Coyotes had just gained control of the puck in the defensive zone, and Kuemper requested that referee Francois St. Laurent stop play, which he did. Kuemper then immediately left the ice surface and was replaced by Antti Raanta.
Upon entering the game, Raanta immediately found himself under siege from a relentless Colorado attack. He also got some early support from his offense, though, as Johan Larsson tipped an Oliver Ekman-Larsson shot past Grubauer to give the Coyotes their third deflection goal of the game, and a 3-2 lead just over four minutes into the third period.
Now trailing, the Avalanche once again turned up the pressure, but Raanta proved to be up to the task even after coming into the game cold off of the bench. He faced 16 total shots in 17:40 of ice time (a 54-shot pace over 60 minutes), and turned them all aside to give the Coyotes a 3-2 win despite his team being outshot 35-14.
Coyotes Dominated, Lose in Overtime
Two nights later, the teams were back in action again, and Wednesday’s affair was more of the same. The Coyotes were dominated in the third period on Monday in terms of puck possession and shots on goal, and this one was skewed even further in Colorado’s favor.
The Avs got on the board on their second shift of the evening, when Brandon Saad found some quiet ice in the slot and fired a shot past Raanta at the 1:23 mark to put Colorado up 1-0. An onslaught of pucks on goal then followed – Colorado fired 18 shots at Raanta in the period while limiting Arizona to just three shots on Grubauer, but Raanta was able to stem the tide to keep it at 1-0 after 20 minutes.
In the second period, things were a little better for Arizona, but they were still outshot 13-6. However, they managed to get one past Grubauer to tie the game late in the action, when a Tyler Pitlick pass intended for Nick Schmaltz went off of Tyson Jost’s skate and into the goal with just 1:55 on the clock.
When the third period began, the Avalanche continued to pour it on, generating 13 more shots to Arizona’s five. Both goaltenders made every save they needed to, though, and this one headed to overtime, where we saw continued domination by Colorado.
Arizona failed to generate a shot on goal during 3-on-3 play, and looked to be playing for a shootout as the clock wound down. Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog was ready to go home, though, as he converted on his team’s 46th shot of the evening to beat Raanta in overtime for the game-winning goal in a 2-1 Colorado victory.
With Kuemper On IR, Raanta Must Stay Healthy
As we previously discussed, Kuemper exited Monday’s game in the third period with a lower-body injury, and it looks like the Coyotes could be without him for quite a while:
If Kuemper is indeed on the shelf for four weeks, he’ll miss out on 12-14 games for Arizona, with a possible return date being on April 5 when the Coyotes will be in Los Angeles to take on the Kings. Things went downhill last season when Kuemper was lost to a lower-body injury – he missed two months, and the ‘Yotes went 11-13-4 without him after a 20-12-4 start.
Despite Kuemper’s loss, the Coyotes are in good hands with Raanta. He’s proved to be more than capable of picking up the slack when Kuemper has been out in the past, but he’s had well-documented injury problems of his own, and the Coyotes have done little to help decrease his workload in 2020-21. Raanta has started seven games this year, and he’s faced 34 or more shots in six of them, including four occasions where he’s seen 40 or more shots. Add in the 16 shots he faced in ~18 minutes of play on Monday, and that’s a lot of wear and tear in a short amount of time.
The Coyotes will need Raanta upright while Kuemper recovers from his lower-body injury, and they can help him out by not relying upon him to bail them out with a 40-save performance every other night. If Raanta goes down before Kuemper comes back, the Coyotes’ playoff hopes likely will go up in smoke.
The Coyotes are 3-1-1 in their last five games, and they’ll now head to Minneapolis for a three-game set against the Wild. These two teams faced each other relatively recently, splitting a pair of contests at Gila River Arena March 5-6.
This is only the Coyotes’ second trip to St. Paul in the last 835 days – they got their Minnesota trips out of the way relatively early in 2018-19, and only made one visit to the State of Hockey last season.
During the Rick Tocchet era, the Coyotes are 2-2-0 at the Xcel Energy Center, but the Wild are vastly improved this season. Led by rookie goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen, along with first-year forward Kirill Kaprizov, Minnesota has exceeded expectations and sits in third place in the West Division entering play on Friday, but has the second-best points percentage in the eight-team division. This will be a tough three-game set against an opponent which appears to be peaking at the right time.
Here’s a look at this week’s schedule and start times:
- Friday, March 12 at Wild, 7:00 P.M. local time (6:00 P.M. in Arizona)
- Sunday, March 14 at Wild, 12 Noon local time (11:00 A.M. in Arizona)
- Tuesday, March 16 at Wild, 7:00 P.M local (5:00 P.M. in Arizona)
West Division Roundup
It looks like there will be six teams fighting for just four postseason spots in the West Division down the stretch – here’s a look at Arizona’s competition for a playoff berth:
Anaheim Ducks (8-13-6, 22 pts, 7th place)
- Last week: 1-1-0 (6-5 OTW vs LA, 5-1 L vs LA)
- Analysis: The good news? The Ducks are no longer the lowest-scoring team in the league, as they collected 11 goals during a short two-game winning streak from March 6-8. The bad news? Those are the only two wins the Ducks have in the last month, and they’re occupying the West Division’s cellar with the Sharks at the moment as a result. If the season ended today, Anaheim’s .407 points percentage would be the fourth-lowest in club history, and lowest since the 2000-01 campaign.
- Player of the week: Rickard Rakell – 2 goals, assist, +3
- This week: Fri vs SJ, Sat vs SJ, Tue at COL
Colorado Avalanche (14-8-2, 30 pts, 4th place)
- Last week: 1-1-0 (3-2 L vs AZ, 2-1 OTW vs AZ)
- Analysis: As we discussed in the Coyotes recaps above, the Avalanche played 120 minutes of dominating hockey this week, outshooting Arizona 81-28 during the two-game set between the teams, but they only came away with one win as Antti Raanta stole a game for Arizona. Colorado is now 3-1-0 against the ‘Yotes this season, and have outshot them by a 151-71 margin in the process.
- Player of the week: Andre Burakovsky – Goal, assist, +1
- This week: Fri vs LA, Sun vs LA, Tue vs ANA
Los Angeles Kings (11-8-6, 28 pts, 5th place)
- Last week: 1-0-1 (6-5 OTL at ANA, 5-1 W at ANA)
- Analysis: The Kings have won only two of their last six games, but they’ve managed to get three of the losses to OT to give themselves a 2-1-3 record during that span. Overall, dating back to Feb. 9, Los Angeles has points in 12 of 14 games, with an 8-2-4 record – overtime loser points are keeping LA in the hunt in the West Division.
- Player of the week: Adrian Kempe – 5 goals, +1
- This week: Fri at COL, Sun at COL, Mon vs STL, Wed vs STL
Minnesota Wild (15-8-1, 31 pts, 3rd place)
- Last week: 2-0-0 (2-0 W vs VGK, 4-3 W vs VGK)
- Analysis: Minnesota’s trip to Las Vegas didn’t go as planned two weeks ago, as the Wild allowed five goals in both games and ended up with just a single point as a souvenir from Sin City. Last week, the Wild managed to exact a bit of revenge on their home ice, shutting out the Golden Knights on Monday, then chasing goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury on Wednesday in a 4-3 regulation win.
- Player of the week: Kaapo Kahkonen – 2-0-0 record, 50 saves on 53 shots (.943 SV%, 1.51 GAA), 1 shutout
- This week: Fri vs AZ, Sun vs AZ, Tue vs AZ
San Jose Sharks (9-11-3, 21 pts, last place)
- Last week: 1-0-0 (3-2 OTW vs STL)
- Analysis: The Sharks have played only once in the last five days, but they made it count with a 3-2 overtime win over the Blues, as Logan Couture scored the equalizer in the third period before Evander Kane won it 41 seconds into overtime. The Sharks aren’t quite as bad as their last-place position indicates, as they have three or more games in hand on the two teams immediately ahead of them, but it’ll be hard for San Jose to close the gap because of their goaltending, which has been the second-worst in the league this year.
- Player of the week: Ryan Donato – 2 assists, +1
- This week: Fri at ANA, Sat at ANA, Mon at VGK, Wed at VGK
St. Louis Blues (14-8-4, 32 pts, 2nd place)
- Last week: 0-0-1 (3-2 OTL at SJ)
- Analysis: The Blues lost their only matchup last week in San Jose, but they still earned a point and are 4-0-2 in their last six as a result. Next up? A potential West Division playoff matchup at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis, as the Golden Knights will be in town over the weekend before the Blues head back out to California.
- Player of the week: Ryan O’Reilly – 2 assists, 59.3 faceoff percentage
- This week: Fri vs VGK, Sat vs VGK, Mon at LA, Wed at LA
Vegas Golden Knights (16-6-1, 33 pts, 1st place)
- Last week: 0-2-0 (2-0 L at MIN, 4-3 L at MIN)
- Analysis: The Golden Knights were rolling as they began a two-game set in Minnesota on Monday, but their six-game winning streak came to an abrupt halt as they left the Xcel Energy Center with no points for their efforts. Marc-Andre Fleury was pulled in Wednesday’s 4-3 loss after he allowed three goals in the first 7:41 of the third period – he’s been outstanding this year, but Vegas will need to get Robin Lehner back to take some of the workload off of the shoulders of the 36-year-old Fleury.
- Player of the week: Dylan Coghlan – 3 goals, +2
- This week: Fri at STL, Sat at STL, Mon vs SJ, Wed vs SJ
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.