When you talk about Coyotes hockey, you’re talking about drama. In all but one of their wins, they have either had to break a tie or come from behind. They have won seven one-goal-game decisions. Four times they have won after trailing first. Three times they have won after trailing by two or more goals.
On Thursday, they got a little taste of reality when they faced the Chicago Blackhawks.
In a 5-4 shootout loss, the Phoenix Coyotes could not find a way to work their magic, and a lot of what has worked against them was displayed. While their offense has kept them in games, fatigue is showing in stats. The Coyotes were outshot 52-30, allowed three powerplay opportunities while allowing a goal, and put Mike Smith to work all game.
They trailed quickly 2-0 when Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp scored within the first seven minutes. Sharp scored on a powerplay. Michael Stone and Shane Doan notched it up before the end of the first period. Stone did give the Coyotes a 4-3 lead heading into the third, but Brandon Pirri scored the equalizer three minutes into the final frame. As the game got deeper, Phoenix lacked any scoring opportunities, taking only six shots in the final period and overtime.
Yes Phoenix did manage to get three of four points in their trips to St. Louis and Chicago, but they are now showing to the league that they are becoming a bit vulnerable. Smith can only do so much to help save his team and he has been a prime reason why their record stands where they are. With an 11-3-3 record, Smith though leads the league in shots faced with 607, and is one of two players taking in more than 50 shots in 3 games.
Dave Tippett, head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes, has always reiterated his team’s mistakes. Sloppy play to protect the puck and a lack of opportunities on offense have separated them from being a solid team to potentially an elite team. In a 5-2 loss to Anaheim last Wednesday, there were few chances in which the Coyotes could find their ground.
“You can’t win a game in this League if you are going to turn the puck over and be undisciplined,” Tippett said after a loss in Anaheim. “We knew it was going to be a hard game. It was a great test for our team to see how we reacted and we didn’t play well enough. We didn’t play disciplined enough to win.”
A lot of players feel as if with these comeback wins they can get there, but a few veterans are always reminded that play like this needs to be addressed.
“(Tippett) kind of gave it to us after that game in the fact that this is not acceptable and that we’re fooling ourselves if we think that we can continue to keep this rolling playing the way that we played in the third period,” Doan told Arizona Sports 620 in an interview.
“It’s a little bit unnerving and then at the same time encouraging because we know we’re going to have to play better than we’re playing right now to continue to keep winning. But, at the same time, we keep winning.”
With all the negative aside, Phoenix is still one of the top teams in the Western Conference at 13-4-3. With the season still young, the Coyotes have been able to compete and bruise up a few opponents. They still are the most physical team in the league, outhitting their opponents in nearly every game. With all that aside, now that they have proven their mark, winning games much cleaner can put them into talks of being one of the teams to beat.
“We want to make sure that we can make a statement and collect points against top teams,” Tippett said. “The better competition you play, the more it tests your team and I like the tests that we’re going through right now.”
News and Notes
The Coyotes and Fox Sports Arizona agreed to televise 70 of their games for the 2013-2014 season. Ratings are up 116 percent since the 2011-2012 season and are also up 70% from the last full-length NHL season. This will put all 82 games on network television.
Forward Chris Brown has been reassigned to the Portland Pirates, the Coyotes AHL affiliate.