It is hard to make up how a team looks after the first game of the season. A true test comes from how teams play on the road, especially against opponents that could vie to play in early June. The Phoenix Coyotes are currently dealing with a rough road trip that includes the Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings.
Of course, it is pretty distracting to look ahead when you have two other games on your schedule. The Coyotes since their first game of the year have allowed 79 shots on goal, which includes 51 against the San Jose Sharks last Saturday. They have fallen quickly to their two opponents and have been constantly outplayed in the middle zone. They have also allowed goals within the first two minutes of each of its games. As a result, they have been outscored drastically 10-2.
“We couldn’t get out of our own zone,” Coyotes captain Shane Doan said on Saturday. “Either the forwards were leaving too quick and getting away from our D-men, or our D-men were having a hard time making plays because they were on us. We stopped playing hockey. We didn’t execute. We didn’t do anything we were supposed to.”
Consistency has been a crucial part for the Coyotes over their last few games. Four power play goals have been allowed in their road trip. Their looks to the net have been much weaker compared to their first game, which has led to bad breaks on defense. This also puts Mike Smith into a bad position working much harder to back up his defense than he is used to. Fatigue showed against the New York Islanders, leading to a short leash Tuesday night.
“Our goaltender bailed us out a bit on Saturday,” head coach Dave Tippett said. “He didn’t have his best night tonight, and let some bad breaks go against us. With that being said, we haven’t done enough yet to win a game.”
The Coyotes are not playing at full strength just yet. Rusty Klesla is still out with an injury suffered against the Los Angeles Kings in their first preseason game. Paul Bissonnette will also return Thursday after serving a three game suspension. Mike Ribeiro has been quiet since he was picked up this offseason, only taking four shots in his first three games. Only Martin Hanzal and Oliver Ekman-Larsson have done their part scoring in each of their first two road games.
Playing on the road has been the Coyotes expertise over the last few seasons. Last season they finished 7-10-7, but prior they finished above .500, all of them of which were playoff years. Although it is early in the season, they are facing their longest road trip of the year. A weak start to the season with the teams they face could mean playing catch-up returning home over a week from now.
“It’s not where we want to be as a group right now,” Tippett said. “The way we are playing right now is unacceptable. When things are going against you, you can’t commit bad penalties allowing powerplay situations. When you are desperate to win, giving up easy goals is hard to do.”
Quick News and Notes
The Coyotes visited the Islanders for the first time since 2010. Klesla may return as early as the end of the road trip against Carolina