If you tuned in to the Arizona Coyotes opening night, then you would know how painful of a game it was. It was painful to watch, it was painful to think about, it was painful to be around. Nobody was in good spirits, but that is to be expected from a team who just dropped their home opener. That was Thursday, skip forward to Saturday, and after a much-needed practice on Friday, the team that hit the ice against the Los Angeles Kings were a force to be reckoned with.
The changes that head coach Dave Tippett talked (on Thursday) about making were made, and they proved to be successful. Goaltending was a major focus for the team after the game on Thursday and Tippett made that very clear saying, “We need better goaltending. It’s as simple as that”. For the game against the Kings’, the opportunity to put in goalie Devan Dubnyk couldn’t have come at a better time. Tippett made it seem that there really wasn’t something that needed extensive thought, considering the game that Mike Smith had several nights before.
Tippett on playing Dubnyk instead of Smith, and how the conversation with Smith went:
“As a matter of fact we are going the other way. Smith admittedly said he did not feel comfortable in the first game, and I wanted to get Dubnyk in; we talked about getting Dubnyk in one of these first four, and this was an opportunity tonight.”
Tippett on the teams’ drive to win and playing against one of the best possession teams:
“Our whole group knew we needed to be better and tonight that was going to be a big challenge for us against the defending Stanley Cup champions and I thought we played well and tonight was a game that we deserved to win. I thought our work ethic was really good. We did a lot of things and we were way more poised with the puck tonight than we were the other night and it was a funny game the other night, we were down by that much that early and it’s hard to evaluate that past the halfway mark, but our defensemen and puck moving out of our end neutral zone regroups were better. We were just better in a lot of areas tonight and it showed on the scoreboard.”
Dubnyk on finding out he was going to get the start so early in the season:
“No, I cant say I did [know that he would start so soon]. Obviously, looking at the schedule it’s pretty light at the start, so you know I wasn’t sure when, but a day before is plenty of time for me. It’s nice to get an opportunity obviously. I know my spot here so you don’t know when the opportunities are going to come so to be able to get a win like that is fun to do.”
He had some outstanding saves, tonight even amidst the rough start of the game, with 2 goals from the Kings’ early. Dubnyk on how he felt after getting scored on early in the game:
“Yeah, I was just pushing a little too hard, you know obviously you come out real excited and everybody’s excited to get last game behind us and move forward. I was just squeezing a little too much and that’s exactly what happens when you squeeze, shots find a way through you because you’re a little too tense. I’ve played enough games that I just told myself to relax and be patient and enjoy it, there’s no reason to put extra pressure on myself.”
Some other key players of the night had to be Mikkael Boedker and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Broedker had his second goal of the season, tonight, meaning that he has scored two in the past two games, not a bad statistic. OEL on the other hand, did not have a great first game and he made it an effort to be an asset out on the ice for this game. The standard is “set pretty high for that player” said coach. Tippett went on to praise him for being such an “intelligent and good player”. After an “average training camp and first game, very average”a game winning goal was a necessity to bounce back.
Boedker on the game:
“We played a full 60 minutes…It was huge to get back in the game. It builds character….[on the Kings’] They’re a good team, they’re well organized… [On out-shooting the Kings’] At times you look up and I thought at some point it was 27 [SOG] on 10, but you know what we played well and this is the way we have to play to win and if we can continue doing this it will be good. We’re just a hard-working bunch in here and that’s what we did tonight [on his goal-streak] It’s not too bad, keep that going I’ll be really happy…We’ve just gotta continue playing strong in front of him”
OEL on the game:
“[On the overall game] I think we felt that we played better, the first period we went after it and I think everybody played a good game over 60 minutes today. [on the minimal SOG’s from the Kings’ in the second] Duby did good in that and we just tried to help him out in that, protect the house. [on his OT goal] I don’t know I took a couple bad shots there in the beginning and then the last one, it felt great to score a goal, and we had a good crowd there tonight.”
With a rough start for the ‘Yotes, the ambition was there and evident. With a late goal in the first, Antoine Vermette got them on the board, and still in it. During the second period, it took the Kings over ten minutes just to get a shot on goal. They were kept quiet by the hungry Coyotes’ offense and defense. By the end of the game, the total shots on goal for the Kings was 26, while the Coyotes were up at 40. The Coyotes’ offense shut down the Kings’ defense, and they were able to keep in down on the Kings’ end for more than half of the game, a big shift from the previous game. The Coyotes were overpowered in shots during the third and OT, but not from a lack of trying. They still powered through the puck, and they battled well in the neutral zone.
The one thing that was obvious was that there were not as many penalty minutes. One of the biggest issues the last game was how the team just couldn’t stay out of the box. There were no fights, maybe some mindless words exchanged, but that’s hockey. In fact, two of the Coyotes’ penalties were delay of game, face-off violations. Only one call for slashing, and the rest interference. No blatantly obvious malicious plays, just minor penalties.
Overall, it was like a different team was on the ice. The players seemed revitalized and eager to get they’re first win. A nice last minute, over time power play goal will do the trick. This kind of win, especially against the reigning Stanley Cup champions, says a lot about the shape that both teams are in. The Kings are now 0-2 in their season.
Hopefully this is a sign of a successful season for the Coyotes, after a long offseason due to missing the playoffs last year. The only way is up, and by improving their game they can prove with tenacity that they have what it takes to make it all the way.
3: Goalie, #40 Devan Dubnyk
2: Defenseman, #3 Keith Yandle
1: Defenseman, #23 Oliver Ekman-Larsson