Effort is what matters. When you like a team, you always cheer when they win, but always fight through the pain when they lose. But there is a difference between liking a team because you have to, and appreciating a team because no matter what, they always seem to leave everything on the playing surface.
What can you say about the Arizona Coyotes, who have now lost three of their last five games in the month of January. They have allowed 18 goals in the process, and every stat that would go against them has hurt in nearly every department. They have fallen drastically to fourth to last in goals against per game and are one of five teams allowing at least three goals on average. While they were once one of the strongest teams on the penalty kill, a nose dive this month has put them next to the bottom. Not to mention in the goalie department, neither Mike Smith or Davyn Dubnyk can stop the bleeding.
“Everybody has to contribute,” Coyotes forward Mikkel Boedker said after the loss to San Jose on Tuesday night. “We really haven’t been doing that on the power play. Obviously our special teams are on the ice for a reason and trust us. It feels as if we have our chances, but we aren’t taking them in.”
“We have a lot of young players on the ice,” head coach Dave Tippett said. “With those young players we are going to have a lot of inconsistency. That inconsistency has spread to our veteran players. That’s where we are at as a team.”
The team can make a case they are not playing at full strength. Fatigue is playing some sort of role, and there have now been days even with some lopsided losses they refuse to practice and instead work out at the gym the next day during their home stand. Putting pressure on a weak defensive unit has now even hurt the stats of Dubnyk, who supposedly is trying to salvage a large slump by Smith. Smith has not been able to figure out his struggles at times, but Dubnyk has not made things better, most recently collapsing in the third after a 3-2 loss to San Jose in the final minutes.
“We need to start helping ourselves out to help out those in the back,” Coyotes defenseman Brandon Gromley said. “A couple of shifts in a row we will be good out there, then later on the momentum swings against us with others.”
What has been interesting though has been their attendance numbers. They have balanced around 13,000 this season, and with so many local teams performing so well, most notably the Phoenix Suns and Arizona Cardinals, they have not seen much of a drop off. They still only fill 75% of the arena, which is one of the lowest in the league, but with how abysmal the team has been recently, the fans are still showing up regardless. What is interesting was the trend from last year, when they averaged nearly 15,000 from February to April. The major concern is if the team is eliminated, regardless of how many marquee teams are playing, how much of a hit will they take if elimination from the playoffs comes early?
With new majority owner Andrew Barroway at the helm, it seems he may have a lot more work than he had planned since taking over just two weeks ago. There is excitement in the air when it comes to yet another owner trying to salvage this squad, but the wins need to happen. Every week they seem to be playing for their season, but at this point the terror needs to stop. Playing harder and tighter has been the motto of every quote this season, but when will it show with so many one-sided losses?
“This year it seems like we have so many bounces against us,” defenseman Zybynk Michalek said. “We just need to learn to move on each time and not dwell on loss after loss. Change has to happen at some point in time.”
News and Notes
Oliver Ekman-Larsson has been chosen for the NHL All-Star team on Saturday. It will be his first appearance. In 40 games he has earned 19 points and is second on the team in goals with 11.
“Obviously it’s be a big honor for me to go out there and play with among the best in the league,” Ekman-Larsson said. “I’m just going to have fun.”
“I think it’s a huge honor for him,” Tippett said. “The amount he does for our group, he is certainly deserving to be recognized on our team. It will be a great learning experience.”