Monday Morning Howl: Coyotes Shine in Season Opener

The Arizona Coyotes and their fans had to wait until Saturday night for the team’s first game of the season, but it proved to be worth the wait, as the Desert Dogs picked up a 4-3 overtime victory over the Philadelphia Flyers in their only game of the week.

Arizona used timely goaltending from Mike Smith as well as a power play goal, a shorthanded goal, an even-strength goal, and a goal with an extra attacker to earn their first victory of the season at Gila River Arena.

Coyotes Set to Begin Six-Game Road Trip

Norris Finalists
The Arizona Coyotes must contain Erik Karlsson if they wish to defeat the Ottawa Senators. (Amy Irvin/The Hockey Writers)

The Coyotes will not be in action again until Tuesday when they’ll head up to Canada to take on Erik Karlsson and the Ottawa Senators. If the Coyotes are able to contain a potent Senators offense that includes Karlsson, Mark Stone, and Kyle Turris, they should be able to take advantage of a shaky Ottawa defense that has allowed seven goals through two games. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 P.M. ET (4:30 P.M. in Arizona).

After finishing up in Ottawa, the Coyotes will head east to Montreal where they’ll take on the Canadiens at the Bell Centre on Thursday night. It’s uncertain if Montreal’s all-world goaltender Carey Price will play against Arizona; he’s been out since the beginning of the season with a severe case of the flu. If Price is unable to play, the Coyotes will see either Al Montoya or Charlie Lindgren in net. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 P.M. ET (4:30 P.M. in Arizona).

The Coyotes will continue their road trip on Friday night in Brooklyn as they’ll take on the Islanders in the second half of a back-to-back. The Islanders have struggled out of the gate offensively; they’ve scored just seven goals in three games as they attempt to replace Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen who left as free agents over the summer. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 P.M. ET (4 P.M. in Arizona).

Arizona will finish out the week on Sunday at Madison Square Garden with a matchup against the New York Rangers. The Coyotes lost both matchups against the Blueshirts last season by a score of 4-1, so they’ll be looking to put up more of a fight against Henrik Lundqvist and the rest of the Rangers this season. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 P.M. ET (4 P.M. in Arizona).

Ekman-Larsson Provides the Heroics

After breaking the NHL record for game-winning goals by a defenseman with eight such tallies last season, Oliver Ekman-Larsson wasted absolutely no time in picking up his first GWG of 2016-17:

After leading the Coyotes in scoring last season, Ekman-Larsson appears to be well on his way toward an outstanding 2016-17 campaign.

Smith Stands Tall in Net

It appeared as if the Coyotes were headed for a season-opening loss when the Philadelphia Flyers spent the majority of the overtime period in Arizona’s end, but goaltender Mike Smith came up with some huge saves in order to keep Arizona in the game. As a result, he’s earned recognition as Arizona’s player of the week.

While it’s true that Smith did allow three goals on 30 shots, one goal was deflected at point-blank range and another was scored on a breakaway after Matt Read got behind Coyotes defensemen Jakob Chychrun and Jamie McBain. If Smith can continue making tough saves, the Coyotes will be in good shape this season.

McGinn & Others Banged Up

Despite playing in their first game of the season, the Coyotes were not skating completely healthy on Saturday; Jamie McGinn missed the game with an upper-body injury and is considered day-to-day.

Defensemen Michael Stone and Kevin Connauton are also injured and started the season on injured reserve as a result. Both are eligible to return at any time, and it’s likely that Jamie McBain would be the odd man out when one of Arizona’s d-men are ready to come off of IR.

Pacific Division Roundup

The season may have just started on Wednesday, but it’s never too early to take a look at what Arizona’s division rivals were up to in the opening week of the season.

Anaheim Ducks

  • Last week: 0-2-1
  • Analysis: After getting off to one of the worst starts in the NHL last season, the Ducks are in the midst of another slow start in 2016-17. They have allowed ten goals in three games and will need to correct their defensive issues quickly to avoid falling far behind in the Pacific as they did in 2015-16.
  • Player of the week: Ryan Getzlaf – Goal, 3 assists, 17 shots
  • This week: Tue at NJ, Thu at PHI, Sun vs VAN

Calgary Flames

  • Last week: 0-2-1
  • Analysis: Things couldn’t have gone worse for the Flames last week; they opened the season with back-to-back losses to the rival Edmonton Oilers and finished with a shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks. Newly acquired goaltender Brian Elliott struggled mightily in his first two games in a Flames sweater; he allowed 10 goals on 55 shots and will quickly need to regain the form he showed over the past few years in St. Louis if Calgary wishes to compete in the Pacific this season.
  • Player of the week: Mikael Backlund – 3 assists
  • This week: Tue vs BUF, Thu vs CAR, Sat vs STL

Edmonton Oilers

  • Last week: 2-1-0
  • Analysis: Edmonton started the season with two impressive victories over the Calgary Flames on Wednesday and Friday, but a 6-2 loss to the Sabres on Sunday reminded the young Oilers that there’s still a lot of work to do.
  • Player of the week: Connor McDavid – 3 goals, 3 assists
  • This week: Tue vs CAR, Thu vs STL, Sat at WPG

Los Angeles Kings

  • Last week: 0-2-0
  • Analysis: The results from the first week of the season were troubling for Darryl Sutter’s squad: first, he witnessed his starting goaltender go down with a groin injury, which will reportedly keep him out of the lineup for up to four months; then watched as his team scored just three times in their first two games. The Kings could be in serious trouble if someone can’t step up and replace Jonathan Quick.
  • Player of the week: Anze Kopitar – 2 assists
  • This week: Tue at MIN, Thu at DAL, Sat vs VAN

San Jose Sharks

  • Last week: 2-0-0
  • Analysis: The Sharks used timely offense and solid defense to pick up two one-goal victories in the opening week of the season. After winning the Western Conference last season, it appears as if the Sharks once again will be a force to be reckoned with in the Pacific.
  • Player of the week: Brent Burns – Goal, 2 assists, +2, 10 shots
  • This week: Mon at NYR, Tue at NYI, Thu at PIT, Sat at DET

Vancouver Canucks

  • Last week: 2-0-0
  • Analysis: The Canucks picked up a shootout victory over the Flames on Saturday, despite that Loui Eriksson scored his first goal as a Canuck into his own net. They then came back from a 3-0 deficit to earn a 4-3 overtime victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday. Many expected this to be a rebuilding year in British Columbia, but the Canucks appear to have other ideas.
  • Player of the week: Brandon Sutter – Shootout winning goal, overtime goal, assist
  • This week: Tue vs STL, Thu vs BUF, Sat at LA, Sun at ANA

The upcoming week shapes up to be an intriguing one for head coach Dave Tippett and his Coyotes. It’ll be the first NHL road trip for rookies Dylan Strome, Christian Dvorak, Jakob Chychrun, and Lawson Crouse, and Tippett has previously stated that it’ll be a “good test” for his team. Coyotes fans everywhere are hoping the youngsters pass with flying colors.