Even though they were one of the hottest teams in the league over the final month-and-a-half of the 2017-18 season the Arizona Coyotes still finished with one of the NHL’s worst records. That was largely because they put themselves in what was an insurmountable hole early in the season by winning just one of their first 14 games.
It pretty much ended the season before it even had a chance to start. Still, that strong finish, as well as a pretty good young core of players, should have been a source of optimism heading into this season.
Unfortunately for them they are coming close to putting themselves in another early hole for the 2018-19 season.
With their 2-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night, the Coyotes fell to 1-4-0 on the season and are still being plagued by a stunning lack of offense.
But let’s talk about the Coyotes’ lack of offense here because this is starting to become a story.
How bad has it been from a goal-scoring perspective? Historically bad.
Following Tuesday’s loss the Coyotes have scored three goals in their first five games (we are not counting the shootout “goal” that gave them their 3-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks — when it comes to actual hockey during regulation and overtime they have scored three goals).
That includes the fact they have already been shutout three times on the season, making them just the eighth team in NHL history to be shutout at least three times in their first five games, and only the second such team in the post-Original Six era (2015-16 Anaheim Ducks).
That isn’t all.
There have only been 12 other teams in league history to score four goals or fewer in their first five games, with only two others (the 1970-71 Buffalo Sabres and 1995-96 Montreal Canadiens) coming in the post-Original Six era. Eight of them came before the 1940 season.
They also have yet to score an even-strength goal this season with their goals either coming on the power play (two) or shorthanded (one).
That is rough.
Are there any positives that can be taken away from all of this and offer any sign of short-term hope? Well, yes. There are. As bad as the offense has been there is also an element of bad luck to it as they are getting crushed by the percentages. They are averaging more than 36 shots on goal per game and had 32 on Tuesday. At some point some of those will start finding the back of the net. Enough to make them a competitive team? That remains to be seen. But there is more offense in there than what we have seen.
Getting Alex Galchenyuk back will help, too.
And for as much as the offense has struggled they have been very good defensively as they have — so far — been one of the best shot suppression teams in the league and are in the top-six in terms of goals against.
It is obviously not the start they wanted, and things definitely look bleak right now, but there are some signs that maybe — maybe — things can still turn around this season.
They just can not let this slow start get out of control the way it did a year ago.
(Historical goal data via Hockey-Reference database)