Kuemper and Raanta Leading the Way for Coyotes

Tell your friends. Tell your families. Tell your neighbors. Tell your co-workers.

The Arizona Coyotes are 5-0-1 in their last six games, and they might be the hottest team in the league.

These aren’t your father’s Coyotes – this team is for real.

Coyotes Week in Review

After taking care of the Jets on Oct. 15, the Coyotes left Winnipeg and headed to Arizona (not for the first time, mind you), where they kicked off a two-game homestand on Thursday evening against the Nashville Predators. The Coyotes handled Nashville relatively easily for most of the night – Phil Kessel scored twice on the power play while Jakob Chychrun added a PPG of his own as Arizona cruised to a 5-2 triumph at Gila River Arena.

Phil Kessel Arizona Coyotes
Arizona Coyotes forward Phil Kessel (Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports)

The Coyotes then welcomed the Ottawa Senators to town on Saturday evening. As they did on Thursday, Arizona stuck quickly in this one – defensemen Kyle Capobianco and Oliver Ekman-Larsson potted goals in the opening period, while Carl Soderberg, Conor Garland, and Lawson Crouse added tallies later in the game to lead the Coyotes and Antti Raanta to a 5-2 victory.

With three straight multi-goal wins under their belts, the Coyotes hit the road and started a four-game trip on Tuesday night against the New York Rangers. Playing at Madison Square Garden, also known as the World’s Most Famous Arena, the Coyotes put on a show – they dominated the opening period to the tune of a 21-4 shots advantage, and once again received outstanding goaltending, this time from Darcy Kuemper, who allowed two goals or fewer for the 13th consecutive time. The game was 2-2 after 40 minutes, and a scoreless third period meant overtime, where Christian Dvorak did this:

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A Look Ahead

Following their scintillating overtime victory at The Garden, the Coyotes remained in New York City and will continue their road trip on Thursday evening, when they’ll take on the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum. It’s been tough sledding for Arizona when they take on the Isles in New York – they haven’t won a road game at the Coliseum (or Barclays Center) since Dec. 18, 2010. The Yotes will undoubtedly be looking to put that streak to bed when they take the ice at 7:00 P.M. in Uniondale (4:00 P.M. local time in Phoenix).

Nassau Coliseum
Nassau Coliseum has been a house of horrors for the Coyotes in recent years. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)

Arizona will get right back to work again on Friday evening, when they’ll finish up the New York-New Jersey portion of the road trip against the Devils at the Prudential Center. New Jersey isn’t off to the greatest of starts this year, as they’re just 2-4-2, but they’ve been off since Saturday. They will be well-rested in this one, while the Coyotes will be playing their third game in four nights. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 P.M. in Newark (4:00 P.M. in Arizona).

The Coyotes will then head to Upstate New York, where they’ll conclude their four-game road trip on Monday night against Jack Eichel and the Buffalo Sabres. October might be both the best and worst time of year for a trip to Buffalo – the weather isn’t miserable in the Queen City yet, but the Sabres typically play their best hockey in the season’s opening month before falling to the bottom of the Atlantic, a la the Titanic. They’re 8-1-1 through 10 games, and should provide a good challenge to Arizona – this one will get started at 7:00 P.M. at the KeyBank Center (4:00 P.M. in Arizona).

Buffalo Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger
Buffalo Sabres head coach Ralph Krueger (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Jeffrey T. Barnes)

After wrapping up their New York road trip, the Coyotes will return home for another short two-game homestand, starting on Wednesday evening against the Montreal Canadiens. If Carey Price starts for the Habs, Arizona might be in trouble. The 32-year-old British Columbia native holds an 11-1-0 record against the Coyotes in his career, with a .934 save percentage and a 1.91 goals-against average. Arizona will try to show that the Price is indeed wrong when these two teams face off at 7:00 P.M. in Glendale.

Coyotes Getting Outstanding Goaltending

Quick, name the only team in the NHL allowing fewer than two goals per game so far in 2019-20.

If you guessed the Arizona Coyotes, you’d be correct.

The Coyotes, as of this writing, are riding a six-game point streak, and are doing so on the strength of their goaltending. Put simply, Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta have been phenomenal so far this season, and, as long as both remain healthy, the duo will likely be the league’s No. 1 goaltending tandem in 2019-20.

Arizona Coyotes Darcy Kuemper
Arizona Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper (Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)

Why are we so confident in Raanta and Kuemper?

Well, we’ve seen this before. This isn’t Raanta or Kuemper’s first rodeo. Raanta dominated the second half of the 2017-18 season, and Kuemper dominated two-thirds of the 2018-19 season after Raanta was lost to injury for the season.

Arizona Coyotes goaltender Antti Raanta
Arizona Coyotes goaltender Antti Raanta (Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports)

Now, with both players healthy, and at the top of their respective games, the Coyotes essentially can choose between their “starter” and “backup” without seeing a significant drop-off in play. It’s a luxury few teams have, and the Coyotes are the league’s best defensive team as a result.

Arizona allowed the fifth-fewest goals-against last season, so their solid play in 2019-20 should come as no surprise. With the offense and power play coming around in the last few weeks as well, it’s also no surprise to see the team dominating games for large stretches of time.

I’ll put this out there – if the Coyotes finish in the top-15 of the league in offense, they’ll be a 100-point team in 2019-20. Guaranteed.

They have the goaltending and defense to get there. Will the offense continue to get the job done?

Pacific Division Roundup

The Coyotes have played the fewest games out of any team in the Pacific Division, but they still find themselves in playoff position through eight games. Here’s a look at how Arizona’s rivals fared last week:

Anaheim Ducks (6-4-0, 12 points)

  • Last week: 1-2-0 (4-2 W vs CAR, 2-1 L vs CGY, 6-1 L at NSH)
  • Analysis: Remember last week when we said that the Ducks hadn’t yet played a bad game in 2019-20? Yeah, that’s no longer a true statement – the Ducks were embarrassed 6-1 at the hands of the Predators on Tuesday, and they’re now 3-4-0 since winning the first three games of the season.
  • Player of the week: Jakob Silfverberg – 2 goals
  • This week: Thu at DAL, Sat at COL, Sun at VGK, Tue vs WPG

Calgary Flames (5-5-1, 11 points)

  • Last week: 2-2-0 (5-1 W vs DET, 4-1 L at LA, 2-1 W at ANA, 5-3 L vs WSH)
  • Analysis: Stop me if you’ve heard this before – Calgary is struggling due to inconsistent goaltending. David Rittich and Cam Talbot both made two starts last week, and they both were lit up for four goals in one of their starts while allowing just one goal in the other. General manager Brad Treliving should already be looking for a goaltender on the trade market – he shouldn’t wait until deadline day to make a move.
  • Player of the week: Derek Ryan – Goal, 2 assists, +3
  • This week: Thu vs FLA, Sat vs WPG, Tue at CAR
David Rittich Calgary Flames
David Rittich, Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Edmonton Oilers (7-2-1, 15 points)

  • Last week: 1-1-1 (2-1 W vs DET, 1-0 SOL at WPG, 3-0 L at MIN)
  • Analysis: The Oilers scored only two goals in three games last week, but they still managed to get three points out of it. We have to admit that we weren’t expecting much out of the goaltending tandem of Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen, but they’ve both been dominant for head coach Dave Tippett this season, and the Oilers likely will be a playoff team in April if they continue to get solid play from their back end.
  • Player of the week: Darnell Nurse – 2 assists, 9 SOG
  • This week: Thu vs WSH, Sun vs FLA, Tue at DET

Los Angeles Kings (4-5-0, 8 points)

  • Last week: 2-1-0 (3-0 L vs BUF, 4-1 W vs CGY, 3-2 W at WPG)
  • Analysis: Things were getting ugly in Los Angeles after two straight home shutout losses on Tuesday and Thursday last week, but give the Kings credit for rebounding, and for doing it against two teams which were in the playoffs six months ago. If Jonathan Quick has broken out of his early-season slump, the Kings might be able to compete in 2019-20.
  • Player of the week: Jonathan Quick – Assist, 2-0-0 record, 49 saves on 52 shots (.942 SV%, 1.50 GAA)
  • This week: Thu at STL, Sat at MIN, Sun at CHI, Wed vs VAN
Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Quick #32, Los Angeles Kings – December 18, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

San Jose Sharks (3-5-1, 7 points)

  • Last week: 0-1-1 (4-3 L vs BUF, 4-3 OTL at BUF)
  • Analysis: The Sharks had the misfortune of running into the Buffalo Sabres in the month of October, and they were swept in last week’s home-and-home involving the teams as a result. Had they played in one of the winter months, when Buffalo traditionally falters, it’s likely San Jose would have won both games in blowout fashion. Such is life.
  • Player of the week: Erik Karlsson – Goal, 3 assists
  • This week: Thu at MTL, Fri at TOR, Sun at OTT, Tue at BOS

Vancouver Canucks (6-3-0, 12 points)

  • Last week: 3-1-0 (4-3 SOW at STL, 1-0 L at NJ, 3-2 W at NYR, 5-2 W at DET)
  • Analysis: Last week, we asked if Vancouver would be able to continue their hot streak on the road after they won three straight at home from Oct. 9 to Oct. 15. The answer was a resounding “yes” – Vancouver played four games in six nights in four different cities, and came away with six points, with the only loss coming in a 1-0 affair against New Jersey in the Hughes Bowl.
  • Player of the week: Bo Horvat – 5 goals, +3, 20 SOG
  • This week: Fri vs WSH, Mon vs FLA, Wed at LA

Vegas Golden Knights (7-4-0, 14 points)

  • Last week: 3-1-0 (3-2 SOW vs OTT, 3-0 W at PIT, 6-2 L at PHI, 2-1 SOW at CHI)
  • Analysis: The Golden Knights are 7-2-0 when Marc-Andre Fleury starts, and 0-2-0 when he doesn’t. The success or failure of the 2019-20 season will likely come down to whether or not Vegas can find a quality backup netminder – they can’t ride the soon-to-be 35-year-old Fleury all season long and expect him to be fresh once the playoffs roll around.
  • Player of the week: Marc-Andre Fleury – 3-0-0 record, 97 saves on 100 shots (.970 SV%, 0.95 GAA), 1 shutout
  • This week: Fri vs COL, Sun vs ANA
Vegas Golden Knights Marc-Andre Fleury
Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)