Coyotes at the All-Star Break: A look at the season’s 1st half
With the Arizona Coyotes mired in a tight playoff race, the best place to look for how each Pacific Division team is doing might be in the stats, not the standings.
At All-Star weekend, which gets underway with the Skills Competition on Friday, the Pacific Division has five teams separated by just one point. That includes the Coyotes, who are in fourth place with 57 points but one win away from having 59 points, good for first place. It’s that tight.
“This break is a good time for our players and our organization, and now it’s downhill,” head coach Rick Tocchet told reporters at the All-Star media day in St. Louis on Thursday.
“Thirty-one games left, it’s all downhill. We have some guys that, I think they understand it’s going to get harder. It’s going to be really hard. You think it [was hard before], it’s really hard now. That’s the taste that they’re going to have to have to climb the ladder.”
Do the Coyotes have what it takes? The NHL intensifies down the final stretch of games, and that ramping-up could change the way things shake out. That said, here’s a look at how the Coyotes have done so far through 51 games on the season:
The Coyotes’ 2.76 goals per game are only 22nd in the NHL, but they’re also giving up just 2.65 goals per game, which is fifth-best in the league. That’s amounted to a +8 goal differential, the second-best in the division (Vancouver: +13).
The Coyotes have one of the league’s highest numbers of players with double-digit goals this season. Arizona has seven players with 10+ goals on the year, which is tied for the fifth-most in the league. They’d have eight if you count Taylor Hall (who scored some of those goals in New Jersey), and that would tie for the most in the league. In other words, they’re spreading the wealth.
Carl Soderberg leads the team in shooting percentage (16.3%). Conor Garland still leads in goals with 16, despite being the lowest-paid player on the team, per CapFriendly. Again excluding Hall, Nick Schmaltz leads the team in both assists (28) and points (35), the latter of which is the fourth-lowest point total in the league among players who lead their team in points (keep in mind, though, that others are close, and not everyone has played the same number of games).
Jakob Chychrun’s 10 goals lead all Pacific Division defensemen and are ninth in the league among defensemen.
Darcy Kuemper had the second-best goals saved above average (GSAA) in the NHL pre-All-Star break, behind only Dallas’ Ben Bishop. He’s been out lately with a lower-body injury, but his expected return in the near future would obviously be a boost to a Coyotes team that lost five of six going into the break.
As a team, Arizona has the sixth-best save percentage in the NHL. Apart from Kuemper, those minutes have been eaten up mostly by Antti Raanta (.912 SV% this year) and Adin Hill (nine games played).
SPECIAL TEAMS ARE OK
The Coyotes had the third-best best penalty kill unit in the league last year at 85.0%. This year, their 81.8% PK rate is 13th in the NHL. That’s still totally manageable, but it’s a step down from where they were a year ago.
The opposite is true of the power play, although it’s still only middle-of-the-pack. Arizona’s 20.6% power play is 11th in the league, but that’s outstanding when you consider that they were 26th last year at just 16.3%. The additions of Phil Kessel and Hall, along with the health of Schmaltz and Christian Dvorak, surely are part of that improvement. Arizona also added assistant coach Phil Housley this year, partly to help with the power play.
FINISH, FINISH, FINISH
The Coyotes rank just 24th in the league with a 7.42 shooting percentage at 5-on-5. But the lack of scoring on their shot attempts is not the end of what may need improvement.
In full-strength situations, Arizona owns only a 47.89% share of high-danger scoring chances in the games they play, per NaturalStatTrick. Its share of high-danger goals (goals that are scored on high-danger scoring chances) is 23rd-best in the league at 47.62%, and its share of total scoring chances at 5-on-5 is 27th in the league at 46.80%.
Some might put more stock into these figures than others would, but the point remains: This methodology of scoring chance measurement says the Coyotes are facing better chances than they’re getting, and at least a few other metrics back up that claim, too.