The Edmonton Oilers are on a three-game losing streak and have scored just five goals in five games since the turn of the new year. They’ll face the basement-dwelling Arizona Coyotes tonight, who are just coming off of their bye week.
1. The Arizona Coyotes are the NHL’s worst team right now. They own a 10-27-6 record and have a -52 goal differential. The only team that might be worse is the Buffalo Sabres, who are 10-24-9 with a -54 goal differential. Arizona and Buffalo were two of the teams aggressively tanking in pursuit of Connor McDavid during the 2014-15 season. They both finished behind Edmonton in the standings that season but weren’t fortunate enough to have their name drawn at the lottery. Things haven’t gone well for Arizona since missing out on McDavid. They missed out on another franchise-talent in local product Auston Matthews the following year and their attempt at turning the ship around last summer by acquiring Niklas Hjalmarsson, Derek Stepan, and Antti Raanta hasn’t worked out at all.
2. Raanta, one of the players Arizona acquired last summer when they were trying to improve their roster, will start tonight against the Oilers. He’s been decent this season through 22 games, owning a .917 save percentage. In two seasons with the New York Rangers in relief of Henrik Lundqvist, he had a .921 save percentage, so the Coyotes are pretty much getting what they expected out of Raanta.
3. Speaking of the 2015 draft, Arizona ended up with Dylan Strome with the third overall pick. He was touted as a very good prospect, but was clearly well behind McDavid and Jack Eichel, who were the two franchise players pegged to go first and second respectively. Strome hasn’t been able to put it together at the NHL level yet. In 18 games with the Coyotes between this season and last, he has just one goal and one assist. His OHL numbers in 2016-17 were absurd, as Strome put up 75 points in 35 games, and his numbers in the AHL are excellent for a 20-year-old, as he has 34 points in 22 games for the Tucson Roadrunners. There’s no reason to give up on Strome yet, but it’s a little worrying for the Coyotes especially when guys selected behind him like Mitch Marner, Noah Hanifin, Ivan Provorov, and Mat Barzal are killing it at the NHL level.
4. The Coyotes started the season at a historically-bad pace. They lost their first 11 games, failing to record a win until Oct. 30 in Philadelphia. It wasn’t until Nov. 16 in Montreal that they managed to record their first regulation win of the season. It was their 21st game of the season, which is a league record for ineptitude. That win in Montreal was sort of turning point for the Coyotes. Including that game, the Yotes are 8-12-2 over their last 22 games. It doesn’t like much at all, but it’s a massive improvement on the 2-15-3 start they had.
5. The Oilers and Coyotes, thanks to a schedule that featured in a lot of intra-conference games early in the season, have only played once thus far in 2017-18. The one meeting between the Oilers and Yotes this season came back in late November, with Edmonton earning an overtime win on home ice. The Oilers didn’t play all that well and finally woke up in the third period, tying the game at 2-2 with five minutes to go before Ryan Nugent-Hopkins buried a beautiful overtime winner on a breakaway.
6. We’ll get an opportunity to watch the newest Coyote, Richard Panik, suit up for his new team tonight. The Coyotes and Blackhawks pulled the trigger on a deal centred around Anthony Duclair on Wednesday afternoon, in which Arizona got scoring winger Panik and Laurent Dauphin, a prospect they dealt to Chicago in the Hjalmarsson deal over the summer, in return. A lot of people wanted the Oilers to be on Duclair as a reclamation project, but it didn’t happen. Duclair had a great rookie season back in 2014-15, recording 20 goals, but he has just 14 since then. Panik had a breakout season last year, scoring 22 goals, but has only six goals thus far in 2017-18.
7. I mentioned earlier that the Coyotes are bad. They’re extremely bad, actually. Is there anything the Coyotes do well? Uhhhhhh, not really. They rank 30th in the league in goals with 98 and 29th in the league in goals against with 150. The Coyotes are getting hosed at even strength as they rank 28th in the league in shot attempt differential and 31st in goal differential. Their special teams are slightly better, though, as the team has the league’s 20th best power play and 17th best penalty kill.
8. Arizona’s special teams are still better than Edmonton’s, though. The Oilers rank 26th with a 15.97 power play percentage, while they sit dead last with a historically bad 71.43 penalty kill percentage. Thankfully for the Oilers, they’re a relatively disciplined team and sit in the middle of the league with 140 power play opportunities against. Oddly enough considering the skill on their roster, Edmonton has only been given 119 power play opportunities, the second fewest in the league.
9. All I can really do is find information that outlines how bad the Coyotes are. When they score first, Arizona is is 7-10-4, which is the fewest wins in the league. If you score first on the Coyotes, you’re pretty much good to go. They’re 3-17-2 when the other team scores first. The Oilers are actually very good when scoring first, as they’re 11-4-2, but they don’t score first enough. They’re 7-19-1 when the other team scores first, and it seems they get completely dejected when the other team takes a lead.
10. Edmonton will roll with the loaded top line again, as Leon Draisaitl and Patrick Maroon play on the wings alongside Connor McDavid. It makes sense given that the team has only scored four goals in its last six games. Also, in that span, McDavid and Draisaitl are the only forwards on the team who have scored a goal.
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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 01/12/2018 – 12:30pm MST