By and large, the Arizona Coyotes are a solid hockey team.
They drive offensive play to a decent extent—their 2.27 expected goals for/60 rate ranks 11th in the NHL this year—and they don’t allow a ton of goals.
With Nick Schmaltz, Conor Garland, Clayton Keller, and Christian Dvorak up front, the Coyotes have a solid young core with underrated offensive ability. This year, unlike many in the past, the Coyotes are actually scoring goals.
Jakob Chychrun is one of the better young defensemen in the league and is quickly becoming a top presence on an already solid hierarchy of Arizona rearguards. And, of course, Darcy Kuemper has been one of the NHL’s better goalies for a couple of years.
Very little of this was apparent on Thursday, as the Coyotes got soundly outplayed by a Los Angeles Kings team that arguably ranks among the league’s worst. Yes, the Kings now own a 6–6–3 record, but their 42.97% 5v5 expected goals rate ranks 31st out of the 31 NHL teams this year.
Despite their track record as a team not especially capable of controlling play, the Kings got off to a good start in this game. They outshot the Coyotes 14–6 in the first period and dominated the 5v5 expected goals share by a count of 0.74 to 0.25.
The Kings’ early play-driving translated to two first-period goals. Former L.A. captain and personified sine wave Dustin Brown opened the scoring just 4:21 into the game with his team-leading eighth goal of the season.
Brown, who is 36 and somehow off to one of the best starts of his career, slipped behind the Coyotes’ defense and made a nice move on Kuemper before firing a shot upstairs. The Ithaca, NY product posted three consecutive full seasons with fewer than 30 points between 2013 and 2016 and bottomed out at 27 points in 82 games in 2014–15; now, after a renaissance in the last three seasons, Brown already has 14 points in 15 games this year.
Jeff Carter doubled the Kings’ lead at the 11:50 mark of the first period with a weird goal that was initially waved off. After Drew Doughty found Carter open in the slot, the 36-year-old forward fired a shot towards Kuemper that snuck through his pads and came to a stop on the goal line.
Kuemper attempted to kick the puck off the line but ended up inadvertently sending it into his own goal. At first, the officials deemed the goal illegal due to goaltender interference; however, after a challenge by the Kings, this call was overturned.
The Coyotes rebounded slightly in the second period from a play-driving perspective and managed to tie the game. The Kings still controlled the shots, 9 to 6, and the expected goals, 0.69 to 0.48, but the Coyotes showed real spurts of good hockey.
As usual, Garland was the player to drag the Coyotes back into the game. After a nice zone entry by the “Short Leash line,” Keller dropped the puck back to a trailing Garland who stepped into the slot and fired the puck towards Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick.
Short leash line from a long way out. pic.twitter.com/Xte2dm4Ie0— Arizona Coyotes (@ArizonaCoyotes) February 19, 2021
Schmaltz had begun the passing play and had moved to the front of the net to act as a screen and battle with Kings forward Alex Iafallo. Garland’s shot ended up ricocheting off of Iafallo and past Quick to make it a 2–1 hockey game just 1:00 into the frame.
Carter took a hooking penalty at the 3:44 mark of the period to send the Coyotes to the power play. The home side failed to capitalize during the man-advantage but ended up scoring shortly after it expired.
Phil Kessel entered Thursday’s tilt on an 11-game goal-scoring drought. That streak is now over, as Kessel followed up on the rebound of a shot taken by Tyler Pitlick right as the Carter penalty expired and jammed the puck past Quick to knot the score.
It's time to go home, puck. pic.twitter.com/NYAQ6js84V— Arizona Coyotes (@ArizonaCoyotes) February 19, 2021
The Coyotes played classic Tocchet Trap hockey in the third period and ensured the game would head to overtime, guaranteeing a standings point in the process. They generated some chances near the conclusion of the third period and ended up outshooting the Kings by a count of 6–5 in the final frame. L.A. still managed to control the 5v5 expected goals share, 0.23 to 0.10.
Overtime was a largely passive affair by both teams as they struggled to set up and find the proper opportunities to strike. That said, the Coyotes had the better chances, and Kessel came extremely close to winning the game for Arizona off a nice give-and-go rush with Dvorak.
Neither team managed to score in overtime. The Coyotes got off to a good start in the shootout, with Schmaltz scoring on a slick move in the first round and Kuemper stopping L.A.’s Carl Grundstrom. But Anze Kopitar countered Garland’s second-round miss with a goal of his own, tying the score at one.
Dvorak scored a beauty in the third round and the Coyotes had a chance to win with a stop by Kuemper; however, he allowed a shootout-tying goal to Adrian Kempe. In the fourth round, Keller missed and Kings rookie Gabe Vilardi lit the lamp with a nice shot.
Ultimately, the Coyotes managed to steal a point in a game where they probably did not deserve to earn one. It was encouraging to see Kessel finally scoring again and Kuemper stood tall (before the shootout, that is).
Unleash the short leash line. pic.twitter.com/vUJ0ax4Twb— Arizona Coyotes (@ArizonaCoyotes) February 19, 2021
- The Short Leash line should probably stick together. Schmaltz, Keller, and Garland were the Coyotes’ three leaders in expected goals percentage on Thursday, all coming in at over 60%.
- Dryden Hunt had a solid outing and picked up his first assist as a Coyote on Kessel’s goal. The 24-year-old Hunt now has a goal and an assist in five games this year.
- Kuemper was critical in regulation, stopping 27 of 29 shots for a .931 save percentage. He’s recorded at least a .930 in seven of his 13 outings this season.
- Garland now sits at seven goals and 15 points in 16 games this year and is first on the team in most offensive categories. He’s on pace for 25 goals and 53 points in 56 games.
- Alex Goligoski led all Coyotes skaters with 20:25 in 5v5 ice-time on Thursday. Chychrun was second, with 20:09, but led the team with 28:10 in total minutes.
- John Hayden finished at just 10:01 in total ice-time. He played a flat 10:00 at even strength and added one measly second on the power play.
- Oliver Ekman-Larsson played 21:32 in his fourth game back from injury, including 15:42 at 5v5.
- The Coyotes have earned at least a point in six of their last seven contests, dating back to Game Two in the seven-game series against the St. Louis Blues.
- Barrett Hayton was a healthy scratch, prior to the game it was announced that Antti Raanta was day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
- Gabe Vilardi — shootout winner, assist, 64.13 xGF%
- Conor Garland — goal, 60.95 xGF%
- Darcy Kuemper — 27 saves, .931 SV%
The Coyotes will travel to Missouri for a Groundhog Day game against the St. Louis Blues. Puck-drop on Feb. 2 will be at 6:00 PM on Fox Sports Network–Arizona and Fox Sports 910 AM. And then they'll play the Kings again this Saturday at 5 pm.