Welcome to another edition of Coyotes Corner! Though the Arizona Coyotes finally got over the hump in the wins column a few weekends ago, that success did not transfer over to anything substantial within the last week. Goalie Karel Vejmelka, who charged out of the gate with the team, has cooled off significantly after going 0-2 in starts against the Minnesota Wild and Nashville Predators. Scott Wedgewood, meanwhile, was unable to will the team to a win against the Chicago Blackhawks, though the team wasn’t out of that one until the final horn sounded.
Another major storyline continues to be the team’s inability to generate much offense, and that trend continued last week. In three games, the Coyotes were outscored 11-4, though if there’s any silver lining, they avoided being shut out for the fourth time this season.
The Central Division picture is really starting to become much clearer, and though it’s still early in the season, Arizona is quite clearly the league’s front-runner in the NHL Entry Draft lottery sweepstakes.
Central Division Standings (As of 11/15/2021)
|St. Louis Blues||8-4-2||18|
The Week That Was
Wild at Coyotes (Nov. 10, 5-2 Loss)
Arizona followed up its first win of the season with a 5-2 loss against the Wild, and after Vejmelka gave up five goals on 22 shots through the first two periods, Wedgewood entered and was a perfect 8-for-8 in the third. It’s been a tough go for Vejmelka as of late, who’s seen his goals-against average (GAA) increase to 3.29, while his save percentage (SV%) has dropped to .897.
What Went Right
The Coyotes played a strong first period, and Andrew Ladd’s second goal of the season helped them cut a two-goal deficit in half heading into the second. That’s where the wheels fell off for the team, and the Wild ultimately used a three-goal second period to put the game away.
Team points leader Shayne Gostisbehere notched a tally midway through the third period to cut the final deficit to 5-2, but that’s all the scoring the Coyotes were able to muster in the game.
What Went Wrong
Penalties and special teams play, yet again. The Coyotes kept the shots on goal margin relatively close (they were outshot 30-26), but Minnesota capitalized on two of its three power plays, while Arizona was 0-for-3 with the man advantage.
Wedgewood did his best to keep the team competitive in the final frame, but by that point, the damage had already been done.
Top Coyotes Performers
Gostisbehere, who finished with one goal and one assist
Special teams needs to improve in a hurry. Arizona’s 12.5 percent power-play rate is 30th in the league, while its penalty kill percentage of 65.31 is 31st.
Coyotes at Blackhawks (Nov. 12, 2-1 Loss)
The Coyotes traveled to the Windy City with some optimism, considering the Chicago Blackhawks‘ track record this season has not been stellar. The game went as expected, and the teams traded punches late into the night. Ladd scored his second goal in as many games, on the power play no less, but former Coyote Dylan Strome scored midway through the third period to make it a 2-1 game, which was ultimately the final score.
What Went Right
Wedgewood was great between the pipes, stopping 27-of-29 shots on the night. The Coyotes were also 1-for-3 on the power play, and killed off 4-of-5 penalties on the night.
What Went Wrong
Lack of offense. Arizona managed just 23 shots to Chicago’s 29, and it was the team’s ninth game of scoring either one goal, or no goals, in a game. That trend carried over into the Coyotes’ next game as well. More on that later.
Top Coyotes Performer
Wedgewood, who did everything he could to give the Coyotes a chance to win.
Ill-timed penalties are absolutely dooming this team. Strome’s game-winning goal 9:26 into the third came on the power play, and though Arizona had played well on the penalty kill to that point, Chicago’s fifth power play of the game proved to be one too many.
Coyotes at Predators (Nov. 13, 4-1 Loss)
Arizona’s game in Music City was the second of back-to-back games for the club, and the Coyotes looked sluggish out of the gate against their Central Division rival. Roman Josi was unstoppable, recording four points (2G, 2A), while the Yotes were unable to beat Saros until Jakob Chychrun’s first goal of the season — on the power play no less — made it a 4-1 game with just 6:30 left in the game.
What Went Right
Chychrun at least got on the board for the first time this season, blasting a power-play goal past Saros when the game was already well in hand for the Predators. The puck redirected in front of the net, but Arizona’s star defenseman was credited with the goal, and it must have felt good after a very difficult start to the season for the 23-year-old. It was just his second point on the year, while he currently sits at a minus-22.
What Went Wrong
It would be easy to talk about the team’s lack of scoring yet again, but one of the biggest disappointments from this game were injuries. Dmitry Jaskin was injured (and the team announced today he has been placed on injured Reserve and is likely to be out for an extended time, likely the season), Mark Borowiecki was spared of any further punishment from the league after taking a game misconduct penalty for the hit that led to the injury.
It should also be noted that both Ladd and Johan Larsson are both currently in the league’s COVID-19 protocol.
Top Coyotes Performer
Phil Kessel, whose ironman streak reached 915 games, passing Garry Unger for the third-longest streak in NHL history.
Right now, health is the primary concern. With two players in the COVID-19 protocol in as many days, and others still on IR, an already-stretched-thin team has lost even more of its lineup.
Tuesday, Nov. 16 at St. Louis, 6 pm
The Blues have been in a bit of a slump since starting the season hot, and have dropped three straight games. St. Louis is anchored by center Jordan Kyrou’s 16 points and right winger Vladimir Tarasenko’s seven goals. In net, Jordan Binnington has done the lion’s share of the work, going 6-3-2 with a 2.80 GAA and .915 SV% in 11 games this season.
Thursday, Nov. 18 vs. Columbus
Arizona returns home on Thursday for their second meeting of the season against the Columbus Blue Jackets, this after they beat the Coyotes 8-2 back on Oct. 14. Oliver Bjorkstrand leads the team with 15 points, while Boone Jenner’s six goals are tops for the Jackets. The team’s goalie tandem of Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo have split the team’s 12 games to this point, with the former posting a 5-2-0 record, 2.42 GAA and .929 SV%, while the latter has compiled a 2-3-0 record, 3.56 GAA and .897 SV%.
Saturday, Nov. 20 vs. Detroit
The Coyotes will play their second-straight home game Saturday, welcoming the suddenly-good-again Detroit Red Wings to the desert. Detroit has played well behind stars Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi, while rookies Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond are very much in the Calder Trophy discussion. Bertuzzi leads the team in points (16) and goals (9), while Seider leads the way with 10 assists. Raymond currently leads all NHL rookies with 15 points and six goals.
“I think we had too many breakdowns,” Coyotes coach Andre Tourigny said. “Wedgy was really good.”
– Coyotes coach André Tourigny on the team’s 2-1 loss to Chicago.
“When we’re already down in the standings it’s hard to be coming back every game, you know. When we’re down two after one every time it’s really hard to have let alone one comeback, a bunch of comebacks in a row. I think for us we’ve just got to have better starts.”
– Gostisbehere after the team’s loss to Minnesota, on how the Coyotes need to start games better.
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A die-hard hockey fan in the desert, and proud Iowa State alum. Detroit Red Wings and Arizona Coyotes contributor for The Hockey Writers.