It is November, but when teams have missed the playoffs, they tend to start living in the past. That is what the Arizona Coyotes might do after suffering heartbreaking back-to-back losses to the Dallas Stars and Calgary games, two games in which they were both in midway through the third period.
“It’s frustrating,” Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett said. “If you want to be a playoff team in this league, you better find ways to put games like that away. It’s disappointing that we haven’t been able to do that.”
Against Dallas the Coyotes had some chances to take control, as their defense allowed them to come through near the end of the game. In fact, a strong start in the first with 17 shots on goal proved that they can carry some sort of momentum. With the score tied at two with five minutes to go, the Coyotes were trying to clear out the puck out of their own zone. Stuck in the corner, the Stars were able to wedge it out, finding Eric Cole on a one timer from the back of the net. A minute later, Dallas had their own problems on their side, and the Coyotes set up a rebound shot for Mikkel Boedker to tie the game. Thinking as if Boedker’s goal could at least get them a point, all hopes were dashed when Ryan Garbutt goes coast to coast, beating everyone on the ice, let alone Mike Smith with just over a minute to go on a short-handed play.
“To win games in this league, you can’t make crucial mistakes at the wrong time,” Tippett said. “You get a power play with two minutes to go in the game, you have your best players on the ice and you give the game away. It’s really disappointing.
Calgary gave the Coyotes their own issues. They were at first bland in the shooting department, managing only 23 shots against a much weaker opponent on paper. The Flames were in control from the start up until near midway through the second when Joe Vitale tied the game with his own backhand shot. Mark Giordano, the leading defensemen in points this season, answered a few minutes later on his own one timer to close out the period. Phoenix could not muster up a decent shot in the third, and an “own goal” off Smith’s stick with a touch-up by David Jones widened the gap and closed the deal.
“A loss like this makes the room feel very depleting,” Vitale said. “We all know what our jobs are on defense need to be, and Smith can only do so much for us. He is one the best in the league, but we have leaned on him a lot. It does come down to giving him more space, boxing out, and eliminating opportunities.”
After their three game winning streak, including a solid win over the division leading Anaheim Ducks, Arizona has gone right back to collapsing in the final twenty minutes. The consistency that was once there has begun to dwindle, and that has shown in their three straight losses.
“We have to learn,” defenseman Zbynek Michalek said. “Hopefully we learn sooner than later because we’re losing games because of that. That’s the frustrating part.”
“We know right now we are not playing good enough to win,” Coyotes captain Shane Doan said. “When our power play works, our defense lacks. When our defense is awesome, our power play falls apart. Things like that certainly need to change.”
If they want to learn, they must do so around this time. A kick in the pads has to hurt in these three games where the failed to earn a point in which they were in each of those losses.
“If we’re having a pity party for ourselves or feeling sorry for ourselves, we’ll go over there and get kicked,” Tippett said. “If we go up there with the mindset we’re going to fix some of these issues and continue to move forward, then we’ll have a chance to win.”