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Around the West: the Arizona Coyotes are actually good

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and the Colorado Avalanche are in a fierce battle at the top of the Western Conference and Central Division.

NHL: Ottawa Senators at Arizona Coyotes
Oct 30, 2018; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Coyotes goaltender Antti Raanta (32) celebrates with teammates after beating the Ottawa Senators 5-1 at Gila River Arena. 
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

There is a big jumble at the top of the NHL’s Western Conference after Week 4. The Arizona Coyotes were the big winners of the week, making up five places in the standings. The Anaheim Ducks didn’t fall the most in the standings after a second winless week, but their abhorred quality of play might be rivaling their Californian counterpart in the Los Angeles Kings.

1. Nashville Predators (Points per game: 1.500) +0

The Preds are a great team, that goes without saying. The top team in the West played to a modest 2-1-0 on the week. They consistently have good shot differentials, in losses and in wins. Not only are the Preds getting scoring from stars like Filip Forsberg — scored a hat-trick against the Edmonton Oilers — but lower in the lineup players like Ryan Hartman are even producing. Hartman scored the first two goals at home against Vegas, setting the tone for the eventual win.

Goaltending was starting to look like a storyline in the early goings, but Pekka Rinne has shut those talks down by posting a .929 save percentage through five games. Backup Juuse Saros hasn’t been a slouch either. He has a .917 SV% in eight games.

T2. Colorado Avalanche (Points per game: 1.333) +0

Has there been a team in history that has gone to the playoffs and picked first overall in the same year’s draft? Colorado produced an underwhelming 1-1-0 record on the week, but fans have found something else to hitch their attention to and that is their first-round pick controlled by the Ottawa Senators. A 0-3-0 record (including a 6-3 loss to the Avs) has seen the Sens fall into the bottom five of the East. More on them in the Around the East article on RawCharge.com

T2. Minnesota Wild (Points per game: 1.333) +3

The Wild had a busy week. A 3-1-0 record in four games has catapulted Minnesota into an abyss of death a tie with the Avalanche for second in the West. The Wild got to play both the LA Kings and Canucks last week, so it’s not like any of their wins were that impressive. Nevertheless, they won them and this balanced roster is moving up the standings.

Mikhail Granlund is tied with the team lead in points with Zach Parise and Ryan Suter as of the writing of this. It seems like it’s been a different player stepping up for the Wild each week. This week it’s been Granlund leading the team with six points in four games. Devan Dubnyk has also found his form, he’s stopping 93.7% of the shots he’s facing on any given night.

Unfortunately, the Wild are still one of the worse shot-share teams in the league, so unless Dubnyk can be as good as John Gibson, things won’t be as rosey as they are right now. The Wild play the Sharks and Blues next week, both of whom are good shot metric teams (St. Louis not so much early in the year but they’ve been improving).

T4. Chicago Blackhawks (Points per game: 1.250) -1

Are the Hawks finally slowing down? They were able to take two points from the lowly New York Rangers, but were only able to salvage one loser point from the Oilers in a string of three games against St. Louis, Edmonton, and Vancouver. There isn’t really anything to suggest this is anything more than luck at this point. The Hawks haven’t been severly out-shot and Cam Ward was able to put up a .923 SV% against Edmonton in the loss. The cancellation of the Hawks will have to wait at least another week.

T4. Winnipeg Jets (Points per game: 1.250) +0

The Jets have flown to Finland to play two games against Florida on Thursday and Friday. Aleksander Barkov vs. Patrik Laine should be a good matchup for the local crowd. Beyond that, expect the Jets to annihilate the bottom-of-the-East Panthers.

In terms of hockey from last week, they beat the Red Wings. Good. Jacob Trouba injured Auston Matthews. Good? And lost to the Leafs in a third period collapse. Not good if you’re the team.

Winnipeg’s first game back from Finland will be on the road against Colorado, the Finland of America.

T4. San Jose Sharks (Points per game: 1.250) +2

Carolina won the corsi battle in their matchup last Friday, but San Jose won the shootout war. The Sharks then dusted their shooting fingers and out-shot the Ducks 49-30 in a 4-3 win that was blown until Timo Meier ended the game in overtime. The Sharks then played another definitely-bad team in the Rangers, but went up against some resistance and needed yet another shootout to dispatch of them. Three extra-time games all going the way of the Sharks is mighty lucky.

7. Calgary Flames (Points per game: 1.154) +0

At home, the Flames lost bigly to the Pittsburgh Penguins 9-1, and Mathew Tkachuk had to carry his team to a shootout loss to the Washington Capitals. On the road, however, they found a way to neutralize a Matthews-less Leafs team, beating them 3-1 in an astonishingly boring game, before topping a competitive Buffalo Sabres team in overtime.

All in all, not a bad week for a team that only really needs to go .500 to get a division spot in the Pacific.

8. Edmonton Oilers (Points per game: 1.182) +2

The Oilers have been downright mediocre so far, and that’s been enough to place them in shouting distance of the playoffs. The combustion of the Kings and Ducks has created a vacuum at the top of the Pacific Division. Beyond the Sharks, I can see any two of the next five teams in the standings making the playoffs.

The Coyotes and Canucks are hot on the tail of the Oilers — jee, isn’t it great to talk about these three teams not in the context of the first-overall pick? — who are finding smidgens of offensive beyond Connor McDavid. (Wingers?) Leon Draitsaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins share second on the team scoring charts with 13 points in 11 games. Alex Chiasson might have found a home in, he’s got four goals in six games, which is already good enough for third on the team.

9. Dallas Stars (Points per game: 1.091) +2

The Stars lost to the Detroit Red Wings (umm what!?) and beat Montreal Canadiens (not bad) this week.

Sorry, I need to back-track. The Stars gave the Red Wings one of their three wins on the season? That’s unacceptable, Dallas. I know you depend on your power play a lot and Detroit only gave you one opportunity, but you do know they’re bad enough that you *can* beat them at 5-on-5 as well, right?

T9. Arizona Coyotes (Points per game: 1.091) +5

The Yotes were the big winners this week. 3-0-0 to be exact. After finally scoring a goal and getting their shooting percentage above zero, the Coyotes have turned into a team that can very well beat anyone in the league. Case in point, their Saturday night 7-1 clinic on the best-in-the-East Tampa Bay Lightning. Please read the recap I link below, I wrote it for the Lightning and doing so might’ve taken a year off my life.

But for real, Antti Raanta has become a legitimate starter, the defense has been managing to keep their opponents to a reasonable shots against number, and the offense led by Clayton Keller and Derek Stepan has been picking up some major steam lately. After scoring only three goals in their first give games (0.6 goals per game), the Yotes have 27 in their last six (4.5 goals per game).

Playoffs?

11. Vancouver Canucks (Points per game: 1.077) -3

It was another .500 week for the Canucks, but honestly, from where they began, that’s all you can ask for. Losses to offensive powerhouses in the Penguins and Coyotes turned into wins over the Wild and Blackhawks.

One thing that should be said here: Pittsburgh and Arizona are both high-event teams (lots of chances for both teams), while Minnesota and Chicago try to stymie offense for both teams. Vancouver doesn’t have the talent depth to keep up with teams that produce, but if you shut the game down against them, their kids will find a way to score against you.

Finally, we can’t talk about Vancouver without mentioning their injury troubles. Alex Edler, Chris Tanev, Brandon Sutter, Sven Baertschi, Jay Beagle, Derek Dorsett, and goaltender Anders Nilsson are all out of the lineup. For those counting at home, that’s $25 million and eight roster players.

12. Anaheim Ducks (Points per game: 0.923) -3

I was right. Anaheim is bad. They are currently into week two of their six-game losing streak. Randy Carlyle’s team has not been able to out-shoot a team since October 6th against the Red Wings. The team’s top scorer is Pontus Aberg (whom I had no idea was in Anaheim) with four (4) goals.

It won’t be long before Carlyle is fired.

Poor John Gibson is trying so hard.

13. Vegas Golden Knights (Points per game: 0.917) -1

Vegas has almost been the opposite of the Ducks. They’ve been producing shots and chances at a good rate, but a combination of a lower shooting percentage and save percentage (aka PDO) has them underpeforming what they could be. I expect things to improve for this team, it won’t be a season-long bender.

Max Pacioretty has yet to get going offensively, and Marc-Andre Fleury will surely improve on his .897 SV%. In terms of the returning players from last year, the first line of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, and Reilly Smith have been creating lots of shots and chances and scoring at good rates, they just need some of that secondary scoring to get going to support them.

Check out the charts I’ve shared above and below. Vegas is among the best in shot-share, and Fleury is underperforming what he should be stopping at the moment. Luck might not end up on their side this season, but they’re doing all the right things. This isn’t the 2016-17 Avalanche.

14. St. Louis Blues (Points per game: 0.900) -1

They lost to the Blue Jackets 7-4, then beat the Blackhawks 7-3 for another boringly even week.

Ryan O’Reilly has been as advertised, and is leading the team in scoring to boot. Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko have been quiet to start the season, but a three-goal week from Tarasenko should help him get going.

Unfortunately, the Blues can’t seem to get a save from Brian Elliott Jake Allen. His .874 SV% has been...uhh...not great. Backup Chad Johnson hasn’t been very hot either, he has a worse .872 SV%.

When will this team ever get their goaltending up to shape? It’s been a whole era of this.

15. Los Angeles Kings (Points per game: 0.636) +0

The only teams the Kings have scored four goals or more on are second-last, and last in the Eastern Conference. Beyond those teams, the Kings are utterly useless offensively. Defensively, on the other hand, has...been arguably worse. Jonathan Quick will also be out of the lineup “indefinitely” after having surgery on his busted knee.

Not sure where the light is at the end of this tunnel. This team is old and bad and don’t have very much of anything in the pipeline. This might be the tip of the iceberg.