It seems like the moment we have all been waiting for has finally come…Rick Tocchet’s system is working for the Coyotes. Arizona has been on the rise since January, they’ve been playing good hockey, putting in a full sixty minutes, and they’re finally staying healthy.
The Coyotes are now on a four-game win streak and a six-game point streak. When asked about what seemed to be the kick starter for them lately both the coaching staff and players pointed out their cringe-worthy 6-0 loss to the Kings earlier this month.
And it wasn’t the “all-star” worthy players that started heating things up for Arizona, it was players like Kevin Connauton and Nick Cousins, who both started the season in and out of the lineup, that were playing how the entire team should’ve been. The past three games against the Blackhawks, the Sharks and the Habs have brought the Coyotes into a new light.
Coyotes 6 – Blackhawks 1
While the Coyotes and their fans wanted to make this game the sixth straight loss for the Blackhawks, they did not expect it to be the blowout game that it was. Even with Chicago registering almost twice as many shots on goal as Arizona, they were only able to slip one past Antti Raanta. Anton Forsberg, alternate goalie for the Blackhawks was pulled after the Coyotes’ third goal but Jeff Glass wasn’t the saving grace for Chicago.
Six different Coyotes had goals including Max Domi who scored his first goal in 32 games. Clayton Keller, Alex Goligoski, Tobias Reider, Nick Cousins, and Christian Dvorak also scored. This game not only showed that the Coyotes can in fact score but also the diversity of the skill among Arizona. It wasn’t strictly the vets or the newbies getting on the board. Everyone was contributing and every line was ready to play.
Coyotes 2 – Sharks 1
While Chicago is currently a struggling team, it’s a different story in San Jose. The Sharks are currently second in the Pacific Division only behind the Golden Knights. It was a high action game with a low score and both teams pushed until the end. But with Joe Thorton injured, the Coyotes got the edge over their opponents.
Kevin Connauton who is currently playing the best hockey of his career gave the Coyotes the lead in the first period. Ex-Coyote Mikkel Boedker put the Sharks on the board with a goal a few minutes after Connauton’s. Then it was Alex Goligoski who came to the rescue for the Coyotes as he was able to find the back of the next from the blue line on a power play.
The big story for this game, of course, was Raanta’s stellar relief goaltending when Scott Wedgewood had to leave the game due to concussion protocol after hitting his head on the crossbar from a collision with a Shark’s player. Wedgewood saved 27 out of the 28 shots he faced in the game and Raanta saved all 12 shots he faced with a lot of help from his blue line.
Coyotes 5 – Canadians 2
The Canadians have been struggling as of late and a lot of that has to do with Carey Price’s goaltending not living up to expectations. Montreal is ranked third to last in the Atlantic Division surpassing only the Senators and the Sabres. Coming into the game, the Canadians were on a three-game losing streak opposed to the Coyotes who had suddenly started to play like a team.
Arizona was completely running the show with a 3-0 lead with a goal by Clayton Keller in the first period and two goals just seconds apart by Brendan Perlini in the second. Montreal almost found a way to close the gap as Canadiens’ leading goal scorer Brendan Gallagher and Daniel Carr both notched goals within two minutes of each other in the third period.
It seemed like the Habs would find a way to tie up the game but the Coyotes’ got a power play and Keller was able to find an open Tobias Reider making the score 4-2. Finally, with four minutes left in regulation, Josh Archibald carried the puck up himself from the blue line and backhanded the puck. Price awkwardly tried to save it but instead, the puck bounced off his arm and landed in the back of the net.
Clayton Keller recorded 4 points in the game and is the first rookie to do so since Kyle Turris on March 17, 2009, vs. the Sharks.
Coyotes 1 – Oilers 0
This was the Coyotes’ third meeting with the Oilers this season and they had yet to win one. However, Edmonton has been on the struggle bus lately and coming into the game they were on a five game losing streak.
The Coyotes did what they do in a lot of games, they scored early. This time though they never gave up the lead. After a successful board battle by Christian Fisher, Oliver Ekman-Larsson fired a shot from the blue line and Christian Dvorak was there to guide the puck in at 16:34 in the first.
The key after their goal was possession and strong defending and Arizona was up for the task. Antti Raanta got his ninth career shutout and first as a Coyote.
The Coyotes have finally found a way to fix the little mistakes they kept making at the beginning of the season which almost always resulted in an Arizona loss. They’ve stopped letting in goals soon after they score, they’re being more careful about penalties, they’re playing a full sixty minutes, and once again they are finally healthy.
Antti Raanta continues to work miracles and seems more and more comfortable in his role as a starting goalie. The blue line has finally made the tweaks it needed to get up in the rush but not letting their goalie out to dry.
Everyone knew there would be challenges in this season with Arizona having the youngest team in the league. Hopefully, this is the turning point in the season that we all hoped for.
The Coyotes have their next five games on home ice. Their next game is Thursday Feb. 22 at 7:00 PM against former goalie Mike Smith and the Calgary Flames.