Coyotes Weekly: Starting the Second Half With a Thud

Adin Hill, Antti Raanta, Arizona Coyotes, Column, Coyotes Goaltending, Darcy Kuemper, Long Read, Pacific Division

The Arizona Coyotes, owing to a 5-8-1 skid over the past five or so weeks, and a 1-5-1 mark in their last seven contests, are dropping like a lead balloon in the Western Conference standings.

The Coyotes have dropped from first to fifth in the division seemingly in the blink of an eye, and, with Darcy Kuemper still on the shelf with a lower-body injury, things might not get better until Arizona’s starting goaltender gets back on the ice.

In Kuemper’s absence, the crease has, for the most part, belonged to backup Antti Raanta, and the results have not been fruitful for Arizona. Raanta has posted a dreadful .897 save percentage and a sky-high 3.38 goals-against average over his last 10 starts (11 appearances) – he’s simply not giving the team a chance to win when he plays. AHL call-up Adin Hill has been better in his five starts (nine appearances), posting a .920 SV% and 2.40 GAA, but the ‘Yotes are just 2-2-1 in his starts.

St. Louis Blues left wing Pat Maroon Arizona Coyotes goaltender Adin Hill
Adin Hill (right) has a legitimate claim to be Arizona’s backup goaltender over Antti Raanta. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

It’s clear that the ‘Yotes are a vastly different team without Kuemper in the lineup – they allowed 2.33 goals per game in 36 contests before Kuemper’s injury, but have allowed 3.21 goals per game during the aforementioned 5-8-1 skid they’re currently mired in.

The Coyotes have some winnable games ahead, though – they’ll need to find a way to record some points with either Hill or Raanta in net in order to stay in a playoff position until Kuemper is able to work his way back into the lineup. What was once a comfortable cushion over the West’s ninth-place team is now just a three-point lead – the Coyotes’ margin for error continues to get smaller and smaller as the playoff race begins to heat up.

Coyotes Week in Review

After watching head coach Rick Tocchet guide the Pacific Division to a victory in the 2020 All-Star Game, the Coyotes resumed the regular-season slate on Wednesday night in Orange County against the Anaheim Ducks.

Arizona Coyotes Antti Raanta Calgary Flames Garnet Hathaway
Antti Raanta has struggled in the net in recent weeks – he’s posted an .891 SV% in his last 12 appearances dating back to Dec. 10. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The ‘Yotes hadn’t been to the Honda Center since the season opener way back on Oct. 3, when they dropped a 2-1 decision, and the club didn’t fare much better in this one, either. The Ducks were able to take advantage of a struggling Antti Raanta, scoring four goals on 32 shots, including a back-breaking shorthanded marker late in the second, en route to a 4-2 victory at The Pond.

A Look Ahead

With Wednesday’s game against the Ducks mercifully in the rear-view mirror, the Coyotes will return to Glendale and will play yet another Southern California team in the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday. It’s no secret that the 2019-20 season has been a disaster for Todd McLellan’s group – the Kings have been competitive lately, but they’re still at the bottom of the Western Conference and can neither score nor keep the puck out of their own net.

Todd McLellan, Jeff Carter
It’s been a long year for Todd McLellan in his first season behind the Kings’ bench. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The Coyotes have won both of the previous matchups against their division rivals this season, and they’ll need to win this one as well in order to keep pace in the Pacific. You can’t lose to last-place teams and expect to make the playoffs. This must-win affair, which is the first of four straight home contests for Arizona, will get started at 7:30 P.M. at Gila River Arena.

Another non-playoff team in the Chicago Blackhawks will then come to the Valley of the Sun on Saturday night. The ‘Hawks have won five of their last six, but they haven’t played since Jan. 21, when they dropped a 4-3 home decision to the Florida Panthers.

Dylan Strome Chicago Blackhawks
Dylan Strome and Chicago Blackhawks are just three points behind the Coyotes in the race for a wild-card spot. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Coyotes will need to take advantage of a potentially rusty opponent on this night – Chicago will be coming back from a 10-day layoff, and Arizona has already won the previous two matchups in the season series between the clubs. The ‘Yotes will look to complete the season sweep of the Blackhawks when the puck drops at 6:00 P.M. in Glendale.

On Tuesday, the Coyotes will welcome the Edmonton Oilers to Gila River Arena in the final 2019-20 regular-season contest between the clubs. Edmonton picked up a 7-3 win back on Jan. 18 in Arizona’s final game before the All-Star break, and the teams split overtime affairs earlier in the year.

Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl
Connor McDavid and Leon Draisitl each have four points in three games against the Coyotes this season, but Edmonton’s secondary scoring has been responsible for both of the club’s victories over Arizona in 2019-20. (James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)

The Coyotes have done a decent job of limiting Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid this season, but they’ve largely failed to shut down Edmonton’s third and fourth lines in the process, and it has cost them. Guys like Riley Sheahan, Josh Archibald, Sam Gagner, Gaetan Haas, Joakin Nygard, and Alex Chiasson have all scored against Arizona this season, and the ‘Yotes are just 1-1-1 against Edmonton as a result. This one will get started at the usual weeknight time of 7:00 P.M. at Gila River Arena.

Pacific Division Roundup

As the second half begins to ramp up, the Coyotes find themselves on the outside looking in when it comes to the Pacific Division playoff race – they’re currently sitting at fifth in the division, but are in the eighth and final wild-card spot thanks to the Winnipeg Jets’ recent struggles. They’ll need to get things turned around in a hurry in order to keep pace with the first-place Vancouver Canucks.

Here’s a look at how the division fared last week:

Anaheim Ducks (20-25-5, 45 points)

  • Last week: 1-1-0 (4-2 L at SJ, 4-2 W vs AZ)
  • Analysis: The Ducks have finally broken out from an 8-18-5 stretch, as they’ve picked up wins in three of their last four contests dating back to Jan. 16. Head coach Dallas Eakins has his team playing better, but the club is hurting their chances to earn the No.1 overall pick in the draft with each win they record.
  • Player of the week: Hampus Lindholm – Goal, assist, +4
  • This week: Fri vs TB, Sat at LA, Tue at OTT

Calgary Flames (27-19-6, 60 points)

  • Last week: 1-0-1 (5-4 SOL vs STL, 4-3 SOW at EDM)
  • Analysis: The Flames picked up three points on a tough back-to-back last week as they started their second-half schedule – next up is another chapter in this year’s Battle of Alberta on Saturday night at the Saddledome. Will we see more fireworks?
  • Player of the week: Matthew Tkachuk – Goal, 2 assists
  • This week: Sat vs EDM, Tue vs SJ
Matthew Tkachuk Calgary Flames
Matthew Tkachuk has been a central figure in this season’s Battle of Alberta rivalry. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Edmonton Oilers (26-18-6, 58 points)

  • Last week: 0-0-1 (4-3 SOL vs CGY)
  • Analysis: The Oilers have won five of their last seven games, which is good news. The bad news? The only losses during that stretch have come against Matthew Tkachuk and the hated Flames. Guess what? The two teams are playing again on Saturday – enjoy that one, hockey fans.
  • Player of the week: Leon Draisaitl – 2 assists, 5 SOG
  • This week: Fri vs STL, Sat at CGY, Tue at AZ

Los Angeles Kings (18-28-5, 41 points)

  • Last week: 0-1-0 (4-2 L vs TB)
  • Analysis: Los Angeles’ skid continued last week, as the club lost its first game of the second half, 4-2, to drop to 1-7-1 since the calendar flipped to 2020. The Kings are trying their hardest to “catch” the Detroit Red Wings in the Alexis Lafreniere upside-down standings, but LA’s 13-point “deficit” on Detroit might be too much to overcome.
  • Player of the week: Alex Iafallo – Goal
  • This week: Thu at AZ, Sat vs ANA, Tue at WSH

San Jose Sharks (22-26-4, 48 points)

  • Last week: 1-1-0 (4-2 W vs ANA, 5-2 L vs VAN)
  • Analysis: It was another tough week in the Bay Area, as the Sharks dropped a 5-2 decision to the Canucks on Wednesday to wipe out a Monday night victory over the Ducks. Head coach Peter DeBoer already lost his job this season – is general manager Doug Wilson next?
  • Player of the week: Patrick Marleau – 2 goals, +1
  • This week: Sat vs TB, Tue at CGY
Doug Wilson San Jose Sharks Ken Holland Edmonton Oilers
Could Doug Wilson (left) be in danger of losing his job as a result of the Sharks’ struggles? (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

Vancouver Canucks (29-18-4, 62 points)

  • Last week: 2-0-0 (3-1 W vs STL, 5-2 W at SJ)
  • Analysis: Vancouver kicked off the second half with two wins last week, pushing their current winning streak to four, and their record in the last 16 games to 13-3-0. This team is absolutely rolling at the moment, but can they keep things going in the right direction in this week’s tough three-games-in-four-nights East Coast roadie?
  • Player of the week: J.T. Miller – 2 goals, 2 assists, +2
  • This week: Sat at NYI, Sun at CAR, Tue at BOS

Vegas Golden Knights (25-20-7, 57 points)

  • Last week: BYE
  • Analysis: The Golden Knights were idle last week as they enjoyed a nine-day break from game action which began following their Jan. 21 game in Boston. Vegas will return to action on Friday in the fifth contest of a brutal eight-game road trip.
  • Player of the week: Max Pacioretty – Goal, 2 assists at All-Star Game
  • This week: Fri at CAR, Sun at NSH, Tue at TB

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