Monday Morning Howl: Another Season in the Books

After eliminating the Los Angeles Kings from playoff contention with a 2-1 victory on Apr. 2 in Los Angeles, the Arizona Coyotes got back to work last week on Tuesday against the Dallas Stars in what would be the team’s final road game of the season. A late goal from Anthony Duclair sent the game to overtime, but the Coyotes would lose in the extra frame 3-2 on a goal from Stars’ rookie defenseman Julius Honka.

On Thursday, the Coyotes would host the Vancouver Canucks in their penultimate contest of the season. A three-goal outburst in the second period gave Arizona the 4-1 lead after two periods, and the Coyotes would hold off the Canucks late as they extended their point streak to four games with a 4-3 victory.

The Coyotes finished out their 2016-17 season on Saturday night against the Minnesota Wild, and lost 3-1 on what was an emotional night at Gila River Arena due to the uncertainty surrounding the future of captain Shane Doan as well as the appearance of Tucson Roadrunners captain Craig Cunningham, who dropped the ceremonial puck prior to the game.

The End of an Era?

Was Saturday night’s game against the Minnesota Wild the final one of Shane Doan’s legendary 21-year NHL career? No one (not even the man himself) knows for sure, but just in case it was, the Arizona Coyotes and a sellout crowd of 17,490 made sure the night was special for the man who has dedicated his career to the franchise. Many of Doan’s friends and family were in attendance, and the Captain did not disappoint; he picked up the primary assist on Arizona’s lone goal of the contest and was named as the game’s #1 star as a result.

There’s no possible way to sum up the impact Doan has had on the franchise into words; he’s served as captain since the 2003-04 season and has been the team’s most recognizable figure for more than a decade. He’s been there for all of the relocation drama and ownership issues but has done his very best to lead the franchise through all of the adversity it has faced over the years.

If this is it for Doan, he’ll end his career with the same franchise that he broke into the league with, something nearly unheard of in today’s NHL. His skill, loyalty, leadership, humility, and kindness have made him a beloved figure in Arizona, and he’ll forever have a place in the hearts of hockey fans everywhere. Godspeed Doaner. We’ll no doubt see you back at Gila River Arena next season, either for your 22nd NHL season, or for your well-deserved jersey retirement ceremony.

Duclair, Domi Finish Strong

There’s no doubt that it was a rough season for Coyotes’ forwards Max Domi and Anthony Duclair, but both were able to finish the season on a high note. Domi missed nearly two months this season due to a hand injury suffered on Dec. 8, and the Coyotes struggled badly without him, as they suffered a nine-game losing streak from Dec. 17 to Jan. 6 and ultimately went just 8-14-1 in his absence. However, Domi was able to come back from his injury on Feb. 2 and finished the season on a bit of a hot streak; he recorded five assists over his final five games and ended his sophomore campaign with a total of 38 points in 59 games.

Duclair, on the other hand, struggled not with injuries, but with confidence issues and poor on-ice performance this season. After scoring just three goals in his first 41 games of the season, Duclair was sent down to the AHL’s Tucson Roadrunners on Jan. 19, where he continued to struggle as he recorded only a single goal and seven assists in 16 AHL games.

Duclair was recalled from Tucson on Mar. 1 but continued to struggle in the goals department until Apr. 2, when he scored what would eventually become the game-winning goal against the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center in Arizona’s 2-1 victory. In Arizona’s next game on Apr. 4, Duclair would score yet another clutch goal, as he sent the game to overtime with a late third-period tally that tied the game at two.

It has to be comforting for Coyotes’ head coach Dave Tippett to have both Domi and Duclair finish the season on a high note. The dynamic duo were two of Arizona’s most productive offensive players during the 2015-16 season, and it’s likely that the strong finish will allow both to head into the offseason with some positive momentum to take into the 2017-18 season.

Pacific Division Roundup

By virtue of their overtime victory against the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday night, the Anaheim Ducks clinched their fifth consecutive Pacific Division title. Here’s how Arizona’s other division rivals fared last week:

Anaheim Ducks (46-23-13, 105 points, 1st in Pacific)

  • Last week: 3-0-0
  • Analysis: Anaheim entered the week with a two-point lead over the Oilers for first place in the Pacific, and managed to hang onto the lead with three straight victories to earn their fifth consecutive division title. They’ll play Calgary in the first round in what could be an extremely physical series due to the Mark Giordano – Cam Fowler incident last Tuesday.
  • Player of the week: Ryan Getzlaf – 5 assists, +2

Calgary Flames (45-33-4, 94 points, 4th in Pacific)

  • Last week: 1-2-0
  • Analysis: The Flames stumbled to a 1-3-0 finish over their final four games, but still clinched the West’s #1 wild-card by virtue of Nashville’s similar struggles. As a result, they’ll avoid the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round, but things won’t be much easier against the Anaheim Ducks, who have defeated Calgary in 25 consecutive games at the Honda Center and enter the series with home ice advantage.
  • Player of the week: Curtis Lazar – Goal, assist, +2

Edmonton Oilers (47-26-9, 103 points, 2nd in Pacific)

  • Last week: 3-1-0
  • Analysis: The Oilers finished the season with a 12-2-0 record in their final 14 games, and will enter their playoff series against the San Jose Sharks with home-ice advantage as a result. San Jose will have their hands full with trying to stop Connor McDavid, who picked up two assists on Sunday to become the NHL’s only 100-point scorer this season.
  • Player of the week: Milan Lucic – 4 goals, 2 assists, +5

Los Angeles Kings (39-35-8, 86 points, 5th in Pacific)

  • Last week: 2-1-1
  • Analysis: Los Angeles won’t make the playoffs this season, but the Kings provided an outstanding send-off on Saturday for their legendary play-by-play announcer Bob Miller, as they came back to defeat the Chicago Blackhawks in overtime by the score of 3-2 in Miller’s final home broadcast with the team before his retirement.
  • Man of the week: Bob Miller – 44 years, 3,353 games announced, 2 Stanley Cups

San Jose Sharks (46-29-7, 99 points, 3rd in Pacific)

  • Last week: 2-1-0
  • Analysis: The Sharks won three out of four to close out the season, but it wasn’t enough to offset a 1-8-0 stretch from Mar. 16 thru Mar. 31 that cost them home-ice advantage in the playoffs and a Pacific Division title. If the Sharks are going to make it past the Edmonton Oilers in the first round, they’re going to have to win on the road, where they had a record of just 20-18-3 during the regular season. Figuring out a way to stop Connor McDavid would help, too.
  • Player of the week: Brent Burns – Goal, 2 assists, +3, 10 shots

Vancouver Canucks (30-43-9, 69 points, last in Pacific)

  • Last week: 0-4-0
  • Analysis: Vancouver’s miserable season has mercifully come to an end. They lost eight straight games in regulation to close out the season and were just 7-23-3 over their final 33 games dating back to Jan. 25. It’ll be a long offseason in Vancouver as general manager Jim Benning will attempt to put a competitive team back on the ice at Rogers Arena.
  • Players of the week: Henrik Sedin – 6 assists, +1

Although the Arizona Coyotes failed to make the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season, things are heading in the right direction for the team. The Coyotes improved significantly as the season progressed, and even had a winning record (17-16-4) over their final 37 games dating back to Jan. 21. The team’s young players made significant progress as the season went on, and they should all be ready to take big steps forward in 2017-18. Will it be enough to get the Coyotes into the playoffs once again? Only time will tell.