Coming off of a strong road trip in Canada, the Arizona Coyotes were on the hunt for a win at home. Winning two out of three on their last road trip, there was momentum coming into a game against a team they’ve already beat.
The main question for the Coyotes was who was going to get the start in goal. With Mike Smith having a rough start, and still not being completely consistent, he was benched the last two games of their trip after a loss to Calgary. The Coyotes other goaltender, Devan Dubnyk, got the last two starts, and even earned himself a shutout.
The final decision was that Smith would get the start, which seemed normal for Coach Dave Tippett to say. Smith stayed strong, and had a good performance. A goal in the first for the Capitals, and a late OT winner were the only one’s that made it through. Post game, Tippett explained that their busy schedule of 9 games in 15 days would mean that “as much as [we] want to say one guy is great and everything, but [we] need both those guys [both goalies] playing well”.
Defense Stepping It Up
The difference this game, and the past several, have been the support in front of the net by the defense. A save on the goal line by D-man Zbynek Michalek in the third to stop a goal showed the effort that they were putting out. The only goal of the game for the ‘Yotes came from defender Oliver Ekman-Larsson (his third of the season).
Blocked shots were a big story after last nights game. The Coyotes were taking them off of basically everything: heads, faces, legs, you name it. Michael Stone took one to the face in the third and headed down the tunnel for some stitches. Stone said that “it didn’t feel nice when it happened”, but whatever effort they could put forward to the game was appreciated. When asked if he knew how many stitches he actually got, Stone lightheartedly responded with “I have no idea, I haven’t even seen them, yet”. True hockey toughness, right there.
If you didn’t know any better, while watching the game, you might have thought that there was some sort of big rivalry between the Capitals and Coyotes. Besides the Coyotes last win (6-5) against the Caps a couple weeks back, everyone is a bit confused about the aggression. Then again, that kind of game is interesting to watch, even if it’s a nail biter. Chris Summers said that, “it’s not a fun hockey to watch by any means.But it’s effective and in the long run, I think it’s going to be beneficial for us.”
The physicality was unreal. It was a fast-paced game, but still low scoring. There wasn’t an exceptional amount of shots on goal, because of the amount of pressure being issued by both defenses. Both teams ended the game with only 24 shots, but the Capitals trumped the Coyotes with 41 hits, to 29.
The whole game had you on your toes, and it going into over time just went to show the equal playing field. Both Chris Summers and Michael Stone made comments on this “rivalry” sort of feel during the game.
Offense Still Struggling
I’ve said this all season, and I will say it again, the Coyotes are not an offensive team. They are known for their defense, and now that their D is getting to the standard that has been set, they are really what is going to make the differences in the games.
The Coyotes don’t have any big-time forwards, and therefore they are going to struggle to generate a lot of goals. You have players like Mikkel Boedker who takes a lot of shots, and has good games, but the execution on the shots just isn’t there. By no means is it not possible to get there, but it’s something that they definitely struggle in.
They controlled the puck and were able to get it out of their defensive zone a good amount during the first two periods. The third period was rough, and it wasn’t in the zone that they wanted it to be in enough.
Coach Tippett said that if they keep playing this way, then you need to expect “low-scoring games”, but hopefully those can come out as wins.
Coach was impressed with the game, even if the outcome wasn’t the one he wanted. They still get a point, considering it was an OT loss, and at this point, getting points is what they need if they want to be serious contenders in playoffs.