Welcome to another Weekly Lost & Found, and happy Pi Day! At this point, we might as well buy real estate in the Western Conference. As their playoff picture is still up in the air, relative to an Eastern Conference whose top-eight looks relatively set in stone, there’s a lot to look at regarding trending teams.
We look at one team battling to move out of a wild card spot and into a divisional playoff spot, and one team that is far out of the playoff picture but has been making some waves of late. Let’s get it going.
Lost: Vegas Golden Knights Struggle Since Jack Eichel’s Debut
We’re going to look a little further back than the past 10 games for the Vegas Golden Knights. They’ve struggled immensely in the 13 games since Jack Eichel made his debut. They’ve won just four of those 13 games, and have now lost four straight. Those four losses came in five games this past week. Only one of their wins came against teams in playoff contention, that being the Anaheim Ducks, who trail the Golden Knights by four points for the second wild card spot.
It goes without saying that injuries are playing a part in their slump. Captain Mark Stone has been sidelined and is on long-term injured reserve (LTIR), as is dependable blueliner Alec Martinez, among others. While their placement on LTIR allows for some salary-cap relief, their abilities have been sorely missed.
The Golden Knights have allowed 40 goals over those 13 games while scoring just 30. Their power play has been dismal, converting just four-of-36 times, or 11 percent. Their penalty kill has similarly struggled, killing just 77 percent of opposing power plays.
Goaltending hasn’t been entirely terrible though. While Laurent Brossoit has seen most of the action and struggled to a 1-5-1 record, allowing 21 goals with a .888 save percentage (SV%) during that span, Robin Lehner has played well despite winning just two of his four games, allowing eight goals for a .929 SV%. Logan Thompson has seen some action and holds a .919 SV% in two games including their loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Eichel has scored five goals and nine points in those 13 games. However, aside from Jonathan Marchessault, Chandler Stephenson and Max Pacioretty, there really hasn’t been much depth scoring to help their goaltenders.
Related: Golden Knights’ Struggles Highlight Fundamental Flaws
The Golden Knights will play seven games over the next 13 days, including a back-to-back on the road. They’ll face a range of difficulties and take on a handful of teams above them in the standings. If they can’t find a way to turn things around, it’s going to get a lot more interesting down the stretch, and as we approach the trade deadline.
Found: Arizona Coyotes Finding Success Despite Being Far From Playoff Contention
Believe it or not, the Arizona Coyotes have been stringing together some wins of late and have earned a third of their 18 wins in the past 10 games. That included a four-game winning streak before the Boston Bruins ruined the fun. This past week, the Yotes went 2-1 and scored 16 goals, including a nine-goal performance, while allowing just eight.
Of those six wins, three came against playoff teams, and one against a team knocking on the wild card door. Some of their triumphs include wins over the struggling Golden Knights, Colorado Avalanche and Toronto Maple Leafs. While they’ve allowed a staggering 38.4 shots-against per game over that span, their goaltending has been holding up as well as can be expected, and veteran Scott Wedgewood has led the way.
He’s won four of six games, allowing 18 goals and holding a .923 SV%. Exciting 25-year-old rookie Karel Vejmelka, who wasn’t expected to make the team to begin with, played relatively well in his four appearances, winning two games while allowing 11 goals and having a .927 SV%.
This season, they’ve seen some strong offensive performances, which has been some of the few bright spots. Clayton Keller is on a tear, earning his second All-Star nod, and his 25 goals, 31 assists and 56 points all lead the team. He’s already set a career-high in goals and is on pace for career-highs across the board. He’s scored a point in all but one of his last 10 games, tallying seven goals and 15 points in that span.
Nick Schmaltz has similarly been on fire recently. He has scored 39 points in 39 games this season, including 20 in his past 10. In a win over the Ottawa Senators on March 3, he scored two goals and seven points. He’s also on pace to surpass his previous career-high by the end of 2021-22.
The Coyotes will play nine games in the next 17 days, including three sets of back-to-backs, starting with a trip to Canada to face the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens. They’ll play two more games this week, against the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks, and really have the potential to keep building on this stretch of strong play. While they may be too far out to really contend for a playoff spot, frustrating playoff teams and playing spoiler could provide some entertainment for fans.
Related: Nick Schmaltz’s Historic Night Propels Coyotes Over Ottawa Senators
The Golden Knights have several teams right on their heels regarding a wild card spot, so they’ll need to find a way to get wins despite their injury problems and recent lack of scoring. Meanwhile, the Coyotes may make for some interesting storylines for a far-from contending team. Stick with The Hockey Writers for coverage of both teams, the upcoming NHL Entry Draft and more in the coming weeks.