The Arizona Coyotes kicked off their 2017-2018 year with one of the worst starts in NHL history with a 0-10-1 record, according to Hockey Reference. Despite a decent 12-7-2 finish, the Coyotes still ended up as bottom dwellers ranking in at third worst in the league. However, the Coyotes are showing signs that the abysmal performance of last season is behind them.
With a 4-3 overtime victory against the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night, the Coyotes have extended their winning streak to five games and improved their record to 7-5-0. This recent flurry of wins has quickly erased a poor 2-5-0 start to the 2018-2019 season and has fans all of sudden optimistic that their desert dogs are here to compete.
An impressive aspect about the Coyotes’ win streak is that they’ve defeated quality teams along the way. On October 27, they dominated a Stanley Cup favorite Tampa Bay Lightning squad 7-1 and overpowered current Pacific Division leaders the Vancouver Canucks 4-1 on October 25. Their handling of top teams has proved that their victories are hard-earned and not merely handed to them.
The Coyotes have excelled in the statistics column as well. According to NHL.com, they have the league’s third best goal differential at a plus 11. They also contain the second best penalty kill at the moment with a 92.1 percent success rate while down a man. In addition, NHL.com has the Coyotes ranked at seventh in both face off win percentage with 51.7 percent and least amount of allowed shots per game with 29.9. It’s certainly easier to win a game when the opposing team starts off with the puck less and gets a minimal amount of rubber on the goaltender.
The players who have led this Coyotes team throughout their win streak include former Calder Trophy finalist Clayton Keller. The 20-year-old center has nine points in 12 games. Blue-liner Oliver Ekman-Larsson has also attributed to the Coyotes offense with seven tallies in 12 contests while at the same time providing sound defense with a plus five plus-minus rating.
Goaltending has also been a strong suit for the Coyotes this season. Net minder Antti Raanta has not digressed from last year’s impressive performance. Through eight starts, his save percentage is .926 and his 1.99 GAA currently stands as third strongest in the league according to NHL.com.
To make matters worse for the Coyotes’ future opponents, center Alex Galchenyuk has recently returned from injury and has put up four points in five games to further boost their offense. Players who have also started to take off include right winger Michael Grabner who has scored three goals in his last three games and defenseman Alex Goligoski who has tallied six assists in his previous three contests.
At the moment, the Coyotes are one point out of a playoff spot. They have played one less game than the San Jose Sharks who currently hold the second wild card spot. There’s definitely a sandstorm brewing in the Arizona desert, and the Coyotes are hungry for their first postseason appearance in six years.