Monday Morning Howl: Coyotes & Consistency

With four days off since their Nov. 4 loss to the Anaheim Ducks, the Arizona Coyotes opened last week with an election night matchup against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday and used timely offense and solid goaltending to pick up the 4-2 victory.

The Coyotes then returned to Gila River Arena on Thursday looking to win their third consecutive game on home ice but were undone by a late Oliver Ekman-Larsson turnover as they lost to the Winnipeg Jets by the score of 3-2.

The Coyotes stayed at home for a Saturday night matchup against the Boston Bruins, but they again struggled on both ends of the ice as they dropped their ninth straight game to Boston by a 2-1 margin.

On the Road Again

The Coyotes will now be off until Wednesday when they’ll take on the Calgary Flames for the first time this season. Arizona has won two straight against the Flames at the Scotiabank Saddledome and will be looking for its fifth win in six games in the series overall. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 P.M. in Calgary (8:00 P.M. in Arizona).

Following Wednesday’s matchup, the Coyotes will head west to Vancouver for a Thursday night contest against the struggling Vancouver Canucks. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 P.M in Vancouver (8:00 P.M. in Arizona).

The Coyotes will finish out the week at home with a Saturday night matchup against the San Jose Sharks. Arizona picked up a 3-2 victory against the Sharks at Gila River Arena at the beginning of the month, and will be looking to end a two-game home losing streak. Puck drop is scheduled for 6:00 P.M. The Coyotes will also be honoring cancer victims and survivors with their annual Hockey Fights Cancer night at the arena.

No Sophomore Slump for Domi

When Max Domi started the season with just a single point through four games, many attributed his struggles to a potential sophomore slump. However, the 21-year-old has responded with authority, as he’s registered nine points in his last 10 games and has re-emerged as one of Arizona’s best offensive weapons.

The Coyotes are going to need contributions from their other young players if they’re going to get things turned around this season, but it’s likely comforting for head coach Dave Tippett to know that he doesn’t have to worry about a sophomore slump from Domi.

DeAngelo’s Instant Impact

When Tony DeAngelo was acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning at the draft for a second round pick, many were excited about the acquisition and immediately praised general manager John Chayka, who was able to get one of the league’s brightest offensive defenseman prospects for a relatively low price.

DeAngelo made his much-anticipated NHL debut on Tuesday night against the Colorado Avalanche and wasted absolutely no time in making an impact on the game, as he scored his first career NHL goal late in the second period to tie the game at two. DeAngelo later picked up a power-play assist against the Boston Bruins on Saturday and could prove to be hard to take out of the lineup now that he’s tasted success at the NHL level.

Vrbata Not Slowing Down Yet

When Radim Vrbata went unsigned through the majority of free agency and returned to Arizona on a one-year, $1 million contract, many thought that his best days as a goal scorer were behind him. However, Vrbata has silenced his critics and has proven to be an outstanding bargain. The 35-year-old veteran has six goals and five assists through 14 games and has arguably been the Coyotes’ most consistent scorer this season.

Vrbata is on pace to match his career-high of 35 goals that he set during the 2011-12 season, and will likely earn himself a hefty raise next season should he continue being a difference-maker in the Coyotes’ offense.

Duclair on Wrong End of Puck Luck

While Max Domi has largely avoided the dreaded sophomore slump, his close friend Anthony Duclair hasn’t been so lucky. “The Duke” has just a single goal through 14 games and is on pace to record just 18 points this season. However, Duclair’s struggles this season could be chalked up to regression to the mean. He went through last season with an eye-popping shooting percentage of 19%, which is well above the established NHL average of 10-11%. This season, Duclair has struggled to a shooting percentage of just 5.6%, which suggests that he hasn’t been the beneficiary of much puck luck in 2016.

Those who have closely watched Duclair this season have noticed that the youngster has had plenty of chances to score, but just hasn’t been able to execute when the puck has been on his stick in critical times. He notably fanned on a pass from Dylan Strome on a 2-on-0 against the Sharks and has missed other big chances that he easily converted upon last season as well. He’ll likely get things turned around at some point this season, but the Coyotes have to hope that his sophomore slump doesn’t last much longer, as they need production from Duclair in order to reach their full potential as a team.

Smith, Hanzal Close to Returning

The Coyotes continue to deal with injuries to Mike Smith, Martin Hanzal, and Michael Stone, but they have started to get some of these players in the lineup. Stone returned from an upper-body injury on Saturday against the Bruins, and it appears as if Smith and Hanzal could be ready to return against Calgary on Wednesday as well.

The returns of Smith and Hanzal should do wonders for Arizona’s depth, and could help the Coyotes get things turned around before it’s too late.

Pacific Division Roundup

The Edmonton Oilers continue to lead the Pacific but have seen their lead shrink down to a single point due to their recent struggles as a team. Here’s how Arizona’s other division rivals fared last week:

Anaheim Ducks (7-6-3)

  • Last week: 1-1-1
  • Analysis: Like most of the other teams in the Pacific, the Anaheim Ducks have struggled with consistency recently; seven of their last nine games have been decided by three goals or more, but the Ducks have won just four of these contests.
  • Player of the week: Jakob Silfverberg – 2 goals, 2 assists
  • This week: Tue vs EDM, Thu vs NJ, Sun vs LA

Calgary Flames (5-10-1)

  • Last week: 0-2-0
  • Analysis: The Flames suffered two blowout home losses last week, and have now allowed four goals or more in five of their last six games. It’s still early in Glen Gulutzan’s tenure as head coach, but there already are rumblings about his job security.
  • Player of the week: Johnny Gaudreau – 2 goals, 9 shots
  • This week: Tue at MIN, Wed vs AZ, Fri vs CHI, Sun at DET

Edmonton Oilers (9-6-1)

  • Last week: 0-3-0
  • Analysis: Things have come crashing down in Edmonton. The Oilers impressively won seven of their first eight, but are just 2-4-1 since. It appears as if the culture of losing that has been present in Edmonton for a decade will be difficult to break out of after all.
  • Player of the week: Connor McDavid – 5 assists
  • This week: Tue at ANA, Thu at LA, Sat at DAL

Los Angeles Kings (7-8-1)

  • Last week: 1-2-1
  • Analysis: The Kings’ inconsistency issues have continued, as the team defeated the Maple Leafs by the score of 7-0 to open the week then scored just four goals in three games to close out the week with three straight losses. A key reason for their struggles has been the power play, which has generated just one goal in the team’s last nine games.
  • Player of the week: Jeff Carter – 2 goals, 2 assists
  • This week: Tue at COL, Thu vs EDM, Sat vs NJ, Sun at ANA

San Jose Sharks (9-6-0)

  • Last week: 3-0-0
  • Analysis: The Sharks were dominant in sweeping the first three games of their six-game road trip, but it remains to be seen if they’ll be able to keep up this level of play. San Jose has lived and died by the play of Martin Jones in 2016, who has proven to be extremely streaky so far through 14 starts.
  • Player of the week: Martin Jones – 3-0-0 record, 71 saves on 74 shots (.960 SV%), 1 SO
  • This week: Tue at CAR, Thu at STL, Sat at AZ

Vancouver Canucks (6-9-1)

  • Last week: 2-2-0
  • Analysis: Vancouver finally broke out of their nine-game losing streak with a 5-3 victory over the New York Rangers on Tuesday, and picked up an overtime victory over the Dallas Stars to salvage the week with a .500 record.
  • Player of the week: Bo Horvat – Goal, 4 assists
  • This week: Tue vs NYR, Thu vs AZ, Sat vs CHI

Similarly to last week, the Coyotes will have a chance to lick their wounds for a bit before returning to action this week. There’s a chance that Mike Smith and Martin Hanzal could be back in the lineup when the Coyotes play again next on Wednesday in Calgary, and they’d provide a much-needed boost to a beleaguered Coyotes roster if they did so.