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Canucks Pacific Division Rival Preview: Arizona Coyotes

Will this be the year that the Desert Dogs bump their playoff drought?

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at Arizona Coyotes
Arizona Coyotes center Brad Richardson (15) celebrates after scoring a goal past Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) and defenseman Ben Hutton (27) during the first period at Gila River Arena. 
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

You know what they say, um, eighth time is the charm?

That’s what they’ll be saying in Arizona when the 2019-20 NHL season kicks-off. The Desert Dogs have now missed the playoffs for seven straight seasons, and they are no lock to make it back to the dance this year.

However, the Coyotes did make a sizable leap up the standings in 2018-19. After averaging 68.5 points per season over a four year stretch, the Coyotes ended up with 86 points last season. Colorado narrowly beat them out for the final playoff spot, and impressive feat for the Coyotes considering they were bombarded with injuries for most of the season.

Despite missing Antti Raanta for most of the season, the Coyotes still finished with the sixth-fewest goals against. They’re problem was generating offence, as they finished bottom-five in the league for goals scored.

Will their shiny new offseason addition be enough to get the Coyotes back to the playoffs?

In: Phil Kessel (trade), Carl Soderberg (trade),

Out: Alex Galchenyuk (trade, PIT), Kevin Connauton (trade, COL), Richard Panik (free agency, WSH), Nick Cousins (free agency, MTL), Josh Archibald (free agency, EDM)

Quick Take: We even asked the question on Silky N’ Filthy, is Phil Kessel the greatest Coyote of all-time?

That’s probably a bit disrespectful to Keith Tkachuk and Paul Bissonnette, but it has been a long time since a superstar of this magnitude played in the desert.

Despite his apparent deficiencies on defence, Kessel is still a scoring machine. He’s averaged over a point-per-game for the last two seasons and should boost Arizona’s pitiful power play. The lack of physicality in his game had led to durability, as Kessel hasn’t missed a game since the 2009-10 season.

The one thing people might say is that he posted so many points in Pittsburgh because he got to play with Malkin. That might be true, but he was also an impact playoff performer on Pittsburgh’s third line during their first Cup win, so take that with a grain of salt.

On paper, their defence still looks strong, but it’s fair to wonder about a couple of names there. Oliver Ekman-Larsson is in his prime and Jakob Chychrun will continue to develop, but Niklas Hjalmarsson, Alex Goligoski and Jason Demers are all on the wrong side of 30. Demers in particular missed 48 games last season due to injury.

Two of those three will have to be solid top-four defencemen for the Coyotes to make the playoffs. Can they handle it?

Coyotes Overall Record in 2018-19: 39-25-8 (4th in Pacific, 9th in Western Conference, 18th in NHL)

2018-19 Record Against the Canucks: 4-0

Vancouver has been manhandled by the Coyotes during their last ten games, going 2-6-2 against their “rivals” from the Pacific.

That culminated last year as the Canucks were swept by Arizona, capped off by a four-goal performance from Brad Richardson against the Canucks in February, when they beat the Canucks 5-2. After that loss, the Canucks slim playoff hopes were all but dashed as they slumped towards a fourth straight season out of the playoffs.

It looks like the Canucks and Coyotes and primed to battle for one of the Wild Card spots in the West, with both clubs under pressure to bust playoff droughts this season. If the Canucks want to bust their slump, they can’t afford to go winless against Arizona this season, especially with three of their four match-ups coming late in the season.

Canucks vs. Coyotes games in 2019-20

  • Thursday, January 16th vs. Coyotes (7:00 pm)
  • Wednesday, March 4th vs. Coyotes (7:30 pm)
  • Thursday, March 12th @ Coyotes (7:00 pm)
  • Thursday, April 2nd @ Coyotes (7:30 pm)