The new NHL season is off and running and, with around 11-12 games gone, while it is still too early for proper trends to be forming, there is enough sample size to get an idea.
The Coyotes, while not topping the table, are 6-5-0 through 11 games which, is a marked improvement on last year’s team that couldn’t find a win through, roughly, the same number of games. While the Coyotes were in the second, or so, year of a rebuild that poor start put the team behind the 8-ball and out of the playoff race pretty much from the beginning. Granted injuries to important players did not help, coupled with a new coach, new systems and the schedule from hell, meant the team never really had a chance.
Fast forward 12 months and things, so far, are oh so different! Some things remain the same however, Coyotes were once again screwed over in the NHL draft lotter, lost key players to injury, Galchenyuk, Dvorak, Chycrhun etc…but, further additions of Osterly, Hinastroza, Grabner and signing OEL to a long term extension meant this was an improved Coyotes version 18/19.
There was a lot of optimism in the desert heading into the new season but, the hockey gods weren’t going to let the Coyotes have it any easier. The Coyotes opened their season with shutout losses to Dallas and Anaheim, outshooting their opposition but not scoring goals. They did manage to get that first win in their third game with a SO win over Anaheim, Nick Cousins getting the all-important goal. Sadly this didn’t jumpstart the scoring and the Coyotes then lost a further two games against the Sabres and Wild, scoring just the one goal. Through 5 games the Coyotes had not scored a goal at GRA despite still outshooting their opponents.
The loss to the Wild was the first of a tough 4 game roadtrip which would see the Coyotes take on the Wild/Blackhawks/Jets and Blue Jackets. Whether it was puck luck or something else, the Coyotes needed something to go right on that roadtrip or, face returning to Glendale 1-7! They lost to the Wild but then, despite the return of Corey Crawford, beat the Blackhawks 4-1, with ex Hawk Hinostroza leading the way with two goals. They dropped the next game to the Jets but overcame the Bluejackets by another 4-1 socreline, with Christian Fisher the hero of the night with a hattrick, to finish the road trip at .500 and move their record to 3-5.
Getting through the roadtrip had flicked something within the locker room, while no longer outshooting the opposition, shots were beginning to go in, perhaps that puck luck was returning to the Coyotes. Returning to GRA for a 5 game homestand the Coyotes have won every game so far, scoring 16 and conceding just two goals, a highlight being an emphatic 7-1 victory over the Stanley Cup favourite Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Coyotes have always been a scoring by committee kind of team, never really having the bdget to sign and pay a true superstar the Coyotes relay on everyone chipping in. This was what happened when the Coyotes opened up the homestand against the Canucks where they have 4 different goalscorers and different assist providers, all in all 9 different players got in on the act, scoring two shorthanded goals kinda helps too!
They followed up the win with a truly emphatic win against arguably the NHL’s best team in the Tampa Bay Lightning. Running out 7-1 victors, Michael Grabner, one of the summers additions getting his first and second goals in the Sedona Red. Antti Raanta following up his strong end to last season posting a .968% save percentage against the Lightning’s potent offence.
Then the Senators came to town which brought another win for the Coyotes, this time 5-1, Galchenyuk scoring his first of the season, notching an assist too and Raanta with another stellar performance posting a .962 save percentage. Possibly one of the more interesting stories to come out from the Senators visits was a group of Senators players caught on camera in an Uber slating their coaching staff and team, perhaps indicative of the mess that franchise is in!
The final game of the Coyotes homestand saw the Flyers come to town, sadly for the Coyotes they were not able to make it a perfect homestand as the Flyers won 5-2, Coyotes being punished for being slow out the blocks, getting behind the scoreboard and never really recovering. The game being the first blip for the Coyotes in quite a few games! Two of the Coyotes summer additions getting the goals, Galchenyuk and Grabner lighting the lamp for the home side.
Despite that loss the surging Coyotes are now 7-6-0, the roadtrip before and the homestand just gone sparking something of a recovery, scoring 22 goals and conceding just 12! Something has clicked and, if the roster stays healthy, this team will surprise many, perhaps its time for the wider NHL and the media to pay a little more attention/respect to the Coyotes!
Photo Credit: Arizona Sports