Any good NHL team can say that you need to have a solid offense, a great defense, and a goaltender that can back you up when things tend to fall apart. Even if one of those categories struggles, the other two can help blend itself. Take a look at how the Los Angeles Kings won their Stanley Cup two of their last three years, getting hot at the right time in all aspects.
Arizona does not seem to really figure out that relying on their goalie every game can only do so much. Over the last month, the Coyotes have been outshot in nine of their last ten games. Even with going 3-2-1 in their last six outings, the team wonders how they can pick up some of the slack that has been haunting them for years.
“You have to play 60 minutes, not 40 minutes or less,” head coach Dave Tippett said after the loss to Dallas. “We can play competitive, and when you go into periods feeling good about yourself, you have to figure out how to close games.”
Arizona is still struggling to close out games when leading after the second. The Coyotes are 2-2-1 when leading after two periods, and are the only team with a losing record in that stature. A rematch against the team that stole their chance at the playoffs last year, the Dallas Stars, was a prime example. Leading 1-0 after forty minutes, the Stars took control in just 33 seconds. John Klingberg knocked in the game tying goal just 20 seconds into the third period, and Cody Eakin scored right after. A quiet third period, they only managed eight shots on goal, where most were wide to Kari Lehtonen. A 3-1 loss brought back bad memories they had suffered from last year.
“We did play a decent road game,” Coyotes captain Shane Doan said. “You have a bunch of guys making sacrifices and doing their job. But there is pressure when you have to hold on to a one goal lead going into the third. They were playing desperate, and our shots would not fall because of nice saves.”
They managed to redeem themselves offensively against the San Jose Sharks, a team who they were 1-2-1 against and their lone win coming from a shootout. Going ahead 2-0 after the first, which included a goal from David Schlemko who was recently called up from Peoria, San Jose took command of yet another bland outing form the Coyotes offense. Scoring twice in the second. Trading goals in the third, the Coyotes needed Antoine Vermette in the shootout and prevailed to get two points.
The Anaheim Ducks proved how weak the Coyotes can be, even with just 12 hours rest, when they controlled the puck for most of the game in their own zone. For every Coyotes shot, the Ducks countered with at least six of their own. Smith did all that he could until trying to clear the puck, he collided with a few of his own behind the net, leaving Kyle Palmieri with an open net near the end of the second. Then Patrick Maroon got one in off a rebound while all the Coyotes did was sit and watch. They managed to pick it up in the third with 17 shots and a goal from Keith Yandle, but by then Fredrik Andersen had already settled in.
“We had a lot of catching up to do in the third period,” Yandle said. “It makes it hard when we were playing in the first two. You can’t blame this game on fatigue. It was us not making the right plays. There were so many errors that we made and you can’t have that against a team like Anaheim.”
“When you play a back to back against Anaheim and San Jose, you know you have a tough stretch,” Smith said. “I knew I needed to come up with a good performance and it was there. We just know that right now it is not god enough, and as a group we need to find that consistency.”
A game like Anaheim let out a lot of frustration over the years. When wins and shots come out in spurts, sometimes depending on those too much can bring your confidence down.
“We cannot have a stretch where we win one, then lose one, or win two and lose two,” Smith said. This has gone on over the last few years and we understand that this kind of play needs to stop.”
Managing though only one win in the three games away from home is tough with how lackluster the offense has been playing. A similar trend has been the most difficult part to overcome in recent years, and with how rough their schedule is getting, something needs to change in their chemistry quick.
“It is disappointing when we give up any kind of unearned goals that gives up the game,” Tippett said. “When you make those mistakes, it hurts.”
“Our offensive zone needs to step up,” Yandle said. “We are not getting much time to set up. When you provide with too much time in the other zone, you can’t take control of the game.”