2. Arizona Coyotes
It started well too with the Coyotes going 7-4-1 in October but they couldn’t sustain it and they began to regress after Christmas.
And they really fell off a cliff in the wake of the Trade Deadline, despite acquiring star forward Taylor Hall from the New Jersey Devils.
They went 5-5-0 in their last 10 games prior to the NHL going on lockdown, sitting fifth in a poor Pacific Division.
Arizona really failed to pack an offensive punch despite having both Kessel and Hall on the roster, although they boasted one of the meanest bluelines in the entire NHL, which could translate to postseason success.
2019-20 record (prior to hiatus) – 33-29-8
Home Record – 17-12-4
Road Record – 16-17-4
2019-20 record Vs. VGK – 1-1-1
Goals For – 195
Goals Against – 187
Power Play – 19.2 (14th)
Penalty Kill – 82.7 (5th)
Strengths – Defense. Defense. Defense. The Coyotes may struggle to light the lamp, but they also do a pretty damn good job of stopping their opponents from doing the same.
Ranked 3rd in the National Hockey League, behind the Boston Bruins and the Dallas Stars, the Coyotes allowed an average of just 2.61 goals against per game.
In a best-of-seven series where games are typically more of a slugfest, the Coyotes could have the edge given their defensive prowess.
Weaknesses – Lighting the lamp. We mentioned it above but, as good as the Coyotes are in their own zone, they struggle to punish opponents in the offensive zone.
Despite having two potent weapons on the roster in Taylor Hall and Phil Kessel, Arizona ranked 23rd in Goals For Per Game (2.71).
Kessel was a huge disappointment in his first year with the Coyotes, putting up 14 goals and 24 assists for 38 points in 70 games, while Hall recorded 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists) in 35 games for the Yotes.
Also, Arizona’s leading points scorer in the 2019-20 regular season was Nick Schmaltz with 45 points (11 goals, 34 assists), and the Coyotes will need certain players to step up and be a lot more productive if they are to get through a Play-In and punch their Playoff ticket.
Where the series will be won or lost – If the Vegas Golden Knights can crack the code that is the Arizona defense while putting the shackles on Phil Kessel and Taylor Hall, then there’s only one way a First Round series between these two franchises would go.
It could get real ugly real quick for the Coyotes so they would need Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta to be at the top of their game in order to keep them alive.
But, if the likes of Hall and Kessel can’t get hot then it won’t count for much given the abundance of firepower the Golden Knights have at their disposal.
All in all, the Vegas Golden Knights would probably prefer a First Round series against the Arizona Coyotes rather than the Nashville Predators, but both teams have the ability to cause problems in a best-of-seven series.