The start to this season for the Arizona Coyotes has been like a Halloween attraction. There have been some thrills, like defeating the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings in overtime and taking a strong Nashville Predators team to a shootout on the road. However, there have also been some scary sights as both the Winnipeg Jets and the St. Louis Blues put up six goals against the Coyotes in Glendale. As Halloween week approaches, let’s take a look at the highs and lows that Arizona has had in the season’s first month.
Mike Smith’s struggles from last year have carried over into this season. Arizona’s main goaltender was lit up for 16 goals in his first three starts this year, although Smith did pick up a win in one of those contests. He also played better in his fourth appearance on Thursday night, making 27 stops in a 2-0 defeat at Minnesota. The defense has also been inconsistent with Smith in goal, while tending to be cleaner in Devan Dubnyk’s starts. This was also the case last season with Smith and former backup goaltender Thomas Greiss. The Coyotes need to get better results from their defensive efforts, as well as from Smith, if they stand a chance in the Western Conference.
Mikkel Boedker has been a big part of Arizona’s offense to start the season. He had a goal in each of the Coyotes’ first three games, including a hat trick against the Edmonton Oilers on October 15. The Danish forward’s six points ties him with defenseman Keith Yandle for the team lead. In net, Dubnyk has looked decent in his first two starts with Arizona. He went 1-0-1 with a 2.31 GAA and a .904 save percentage. Dubnyk came up with some huge saves in both of those contests and gave the Coyotes a chance to grab three out of four possible points.
Haunted By the Past
Excluding the seven goals that the Coyotes scored against Edmonton, the offense has only managed nine goals this month heading into Saturday’s home game against the Florida Panthers. Sam Gagner, who was brought in to help score more goals, has yet to register a point through the first six games. Arizona’s production has sorely missed players like Radim Vrbata and Mike Ribeiro, who have both enjoyed early success with their new teams. Vrbata has seven points to open the season with the Vancouver Canucks, trailing his linemates Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin by one for the team’s scoring lead. Riberio is second on the Predators in scoring with six points, including a goal and an assist against Arizona on October 21.
While the Coyotes have already gotten a chance to face Ribeiro with Nashville, their first opportunity to take on Vrbata and the Canucks will be on November 14 in Vancouver.
Charles Woodall-Pike is a journalist who writes about the Arizona Coyotes for The Hockey Writers.