Monday, January 14, 2020
Last week’s road trip for the Arizona Coyotes got off to an encouraging start in Sunrise. Adin Hill made 30 saves in his first start of the season, and the Coyotes offense fired on all cylinders in a 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers.
The final two games away from Glendale were not so kind. The streak-breaking Coyotes got another chance in Tampa, and instead were overwhelmed by the Lightning after a couple of tough-luck goals against in the first period.
Then good news came Friday when it was announced that Antti Raanta would start in Carolina. Those positive vibes quickly disappeared when Raanta left the game with an injury in a tough 3-0 loss.
The week ended with a little more positive loss, a shootout defeat to the Pittsburgh Penguins, who had been the league’s best team since losing Sidney Crosby. It was a better performance that saw the much-needed return of defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to the lineup.
Now the Coyotes face the biggest stretch of its season. The next three games before the All-Star break are against Pacific Division opponents, beginning with the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday. This is a stretch where Arizona can put themselves in a really good position before having 11 days off, or really put themselves behind the eight-ball heading into the most crucial part of the season.
The long break will be much needed for the Coyotes no matter how the next three games go. They are hurting in its biggest strength, goaltending, and it was announced that Darcy Kuemper will not play before the All-Star break.
It does not look as though Raanta will not be back to play this week, so the crease for Arizona will need to be held down by its young goaltender tandem. Hill played outstanding in Florida and made key saves against Pittsburgh on Sunday, but the team needs more consistency from him. While it is nearly impossible to find anyone to play at the level Kuemper was before injury, all it may take for the Coyotes to win the next three is steady performances from Hill.
The perfect opportunity to get Ivan Prosvetov his first career NHL start would be Tuesday against the Sharks. Get him out in a comfortable environment, against a team that is struggling with injuries and trying to stay afloat would be the best chance to find his legs in the big league.
Prosvetov has really shined and taken over in Tucson as well. In 15 games, he holds a 2.38 goals against average and a .931 SV%, showing why the Coyotes took him in the fourth round just two years ago. With Raanta’s injury struggles since his arrival to the Valley, Prosvetov might be a full-time member of the Coyotes sooner than anybody was expecting.
The Coyotes have been ravaged by injuries during Rick Tocchet’s entire tenure as head coach. The Coyotes seem complete in its 18 skaters, a positive that has rarely been present. The one thing Arizona always had was its goaltending, and now the depth is being tested in the position. If the Coyotes can pick up four of a six possible points this week, they can enter the break with a little more breathing room, and get back to full health for the first time in a long time.