Only 24 days have passed since Taylor Hall was acquired by the Arizona Coyotes, but it has become clear that the 28-year-old is already playing a significant role in Arizona’s offense.
Let’s start with the basics: 5-on-5 play. Before acquiring Hall, the Coyotes had scored 61 goals at 5-on-5 in 35 games, just 1.74 per game, and good for only 25th in the NHL. With Hall in the lineup, though, the Coyotes are scoring 2.70 goals at 5-on-5 per game, tied for fifth in the league.
Needless to say, that’s an immense improvement.
Aside from team success, Hall’s appearance in the lineup has rejuvenated some of the Coyotes’ struggling players – Oliver Ekman-Larsson had just 11 points in his first 35 games, but has 9 in 10 games since Hall arrived. Similarly, Phil Kessel has posted 8 points in his last 10 contests after recording 19 in his first 35. Derek Stepan has nearly doubled his per-game scoring average – from 0.31 in his first 35 games to 0.60 over his last 10.
Arizona’s other big guns, Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz, have also seen a rise in point production – both were averaging 0.66 points per game before Hall’s arrival, but they’re averaging 0.90 and 1.20 P/GP, respectively, since.
We’re a long way away from free agency, but here’s hoping Coyotes owner Alex Mereulo is ready to do whatever it takes to retain Hall, should the opportunity present itself. He’s completely changed the fortunes of Arizona’s season, and the Coyotes are a real contender with No. 91 in the fold.
Coyotes Week in Review
Following their New Year’s Eve triumph over the St. Louis Blues, the Coyotes got their 2020 schedule started on Thursday night against the Anaheim Ducks. Lawson Crouse opened the scoring in the first period, but two unanswered goals by the Ducks put Arizona in a 2-1 hole after 40 minutes.
Determined to avoid another bad home loss, the Coyotes came out on fire in the final period – Christian Dvorak tied the game just 26 seconds in before Brad Richardson and Carl Soderberg scored 1:02 apart later in the period to put the finishing touches on a three-goal third period, and a 4-2 Arizona comeback victory.
The Coyotes then wrapped up their four-game homestand with a visit from the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday evening. The Flyers, in the midst of a six-game road trip, were in Arizona for the fifth stop of the roadie. They had lost 6-1 in San Jose, 5-3 in Los Angeles, and 5-4 in Las Vegas earlier in the trip, and the Coyotes wasted no time in handing the Broad Street Bullies another bad road loss in Glendale.
Richardson, Jordan Oesterle, and Clayton Keller all scored in the first period to chase Flyers goaltender Carter Hart, and Brian Elliott was unable to stem the tide, as Keller, Lawson Crouse, and Derek Stepan added goals later in the game to propel the Coyotes to a 6-2 triumph.
However, it wasn’t all good news in this one – goaltender Antti Raanta suffered a lower-body injury during the second period, and left the game during the second intermission. His injury isn’t thought to be serious, thankfully, but the Coyotes still recalled 20-year-old Ivan Prosvetsov, just in case.
With a 3-1-0 homestand wrapped up, the Coyotes hopped on a flight to the East Coast and began a three-game roadie, starting on Tuesday evening at the BB&T Center against Joel Quenneville’s Florida Panthers. Much was expected from the Cats this season, especially after they signed goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to a $70 million contract on the first day of free agency, but “Bob” has struggled this year, and the Coyotes faced backup Chris Driedger in this one.
After a relatively uneventful, scoreless first period, things heated up quickly in the second period – five goals were scored in a span of 5:19, three by Arizona and two by Florida (in a span of 36 seconds). With Adin Hill in net, the Coyotes clung to this one-goal late until late in the third, when Carl Soderberg scored a breakaway goal to ice the game before Lawson Crouse added the empty netter for the cherry on top in a 5-2 Coyotes win. Hill was phenomenal in Sunrise, making 37 saves on 39 shots to raise his save percentage to .944 in three 2019-20 appearances.
A Look Ahead
With four consecutive victories under their belts, the Coyotes will continue their road trip on Thursday against the Eastern Conference’s hottest team, the Tampa Bay Lightning. Winners of eight straight contests, the Bolts have quickly overcome a slow start and once again should be considered Stanley Cup contenders.
During the winning streak, Brayden Point, Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Alex Killorn, and Victor Hedman are all averaging over a point per game, while starting goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy has posted a .932 save percentage and a 2.17 GAA in his last six starts. This will be a good test for the Coyotes – puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 P.M. local time at Amalie Arena (5:00 P.M. in Arizona).
The Coyotes will then travel to the Tar Heel State to wrap up their road trip on Friday night against the Carolina Hurricanes. After a surprising run to the Eastern Conference Final last year, the Hurricanes are in the midst of another solid season in 2019-20 – they have 52 points in 43 games and are occupying one of the East’s two wild-card spots.
Carolina has been powered by its top-10 offense this season, which has masked the struggles of the club’s 24th-ranked defense. Unless Hill plays back-to-back games, or Raanta returns to the lineup, we could be looking at the first career NHL start of Prosvetov in this one, which will get started at 7:30 P.M. local time in Raleigh (5:30 P.M. in Arizona).
With their East Coast trip in the rearview mirror, the ‘Yotes will return to Glendale for a two-game homestand starting on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Captain Sidney Crosby hasn’t played since Nov. 9 due to reported sports hernia surgery, but he’s nearing a return and could potentially play in this one.
Even if he doesn’t, the Penguins, led by head coach Mike Sullivan, have done just fine without their captain, posting a 26-12-5 record through 43 games. They’re primed for a huge second half if they can get healthy. Note the early start time for this one – puck drop will take place at 4:00 P.M. at Gila River Arena.
We’ve talked about games that Arizona “should” win in previous editions of this column – this game definitely qualifies as one of those. The Coyotes can’t lose games to teams of this caliber and expect to make the playoffs. We’ll get things kicked off in this one at 7:00 P.M. in Glendale.
Pacific Division Roundup
With less than three months remaining in the 2019-20 regular season, the Coyotes find themselves once again tied for first place in the Pacific Division. However, as has been the case all year, the team has no margin for error, as they’re only four points ahead of the Vancouver Canucks, who are out of the playoff picture at the moment.
Anaheim Ducks (17-21-5, 39 points)
- Last week: 1-2-0 (4-2 L at AZ, 5-4 SOW vs NSH, 4-3 L vs CBJ)
- Analysis: The Ducks won a game on Sunday, 5-4 over the Nashville Predators in a shootout that sealed Peter Laviolette’s fate, but, predictably, Anaheim lost the next one to keep alive their streak of failing to win consecutive contests, which is now at 28 games.
- Player of the week: Ryan Getzlaf – Goal, 4 assists
- This week: Thu vs DAL, Sat at CHI, Mon at STL
Calgary Flames (23-17-5, 51 points)
- Last week: 3-0-0 (4-3 W vs NYR, 5-4 SOW at MIN, 2-1 W at CHI)
- Analysis: Calgary broke out of their 2-5-1 slump in a big way last week, picking up wins in all three of their games. However, none of the opponents the Flames defeated are currently in playoff position – can they keep it going against quality competition?
- Player of the week: Cam Talbot – 2-0-0 record, 55 saves on 59 shots (.932 SV%, 2.02 GAA)
- This week: Thu vs MIN, Sat vs EDM, Mon at MTL
Edmonton Oilers (23-17-5, 51 points)
- Last week: 2-0-1 (3-2 OTL at BUF, 4-1 W at BOS, 6-4 W at TOR)
- Analysis: The Oilers, surprisingly, had a good week – they beat the Atlantic Division’s top two teams in regulation and lost to the Buffalo Sabres on a Jack Eichel overtime penalty shot. Of course, they’ll probably follow this up by losing six of their next seven, but still, progress is progress.
- Player of the week: Connor McDavid – 2 goals, 3 assists, +4, 16 SOG
- This week: Thu at MTL, Sat at CGY, Tue vs NSH
Los Angeles Kings (17-24-4, 38 points)
- Last week: 0-3-0 (4-1 L vs NSH, 4-2 L vs CBJ, 2-1 L vs DAL)
- Analysis: It was another rough week for the Kings, as they dropped all three of their contests in regulation. They join the Ottawa Senators as the only NHL squads without a point in the New Year. Not great.
- Player of the week: Alex Iafallo – 2 goals, assist
- This week: Thu at VGK, Sat at CAR, Tue at TB
San Jose Sharks (19-22-4, 42 points)
- Last week: 2-1-1 (3-2 OTW at PIT, 3-2 W at CBJ, 5-4 OTL at WSH, 3-2 L at STL)
- Analysis: The Sharks suffered what could turn out to be the worst loss of any team’s season on Sunday, blowing a two-goal lead in the final minute against the Washington Capitals and losing in overtime after they had, presumably, iced the game with an empty netter. San Jose has won just 4 of 12 since Peter DeBoer got the ax – looks like he wasn’t the problem after all.
- Player of the week: Evander Kane – 4 goals, +1, 11 SOG
- This week: Thu vs CBJ, Sat vs DAL, Tue at AZ
Vancouver Canucks (23-16-4, 50 points)
- Last week: 2-1-0 (7-5 W vs CHI, 2-1 W vs NYR, 9-2 L at TB)
- Analysis: The Canucks’ seven-game winning streak came to a screeching halt on Tuesday, when they suffered a 9-2 defeat at the hands of the Lightning in Tampa Bay. Not the best way to start a five-game roadie, if I do say so myself, especially for a team that has struggled on the road this season.
- Player of the week: Bo Horvat – 2 goals, 4 assists, +5, 10 SOG
- This week: Thu at FLA, Sat at BUF, Sun at MIN, Tue at WPG
Vegas Golden Knights (24-16-6, 54 points)
- Last week: 2-1-0 (5-4 W vs PHI, 5-4 OTW vs STL, 4-3 L vs PIT)
- Analysis: The Golden Knights won two of three last week to climb to eight games above the .500 mark. They’re in good shape. However, Vegas will play at T-Mobile Arena just once from Jan. 12 to Feb. 12 – they’ll need to get it done on the road, where they’re a pedestrian 10-8-3 this year.
- Player of the week: Paul Stastny – 2 goals, 2 assists, +2, 12 SOG
- This week: Thu vs LA, Sat vs CBJ, Tue at BUF