January 15th was the last home game the Arizona Coyotes had before getting booted out for the Super Bowl, but they finally traveled back for a game against the Carolina Hurricanes at Gila River Arena. The first of a pair of home games this week was ultimately a shootout loss for the ‘Yotes, but not without a fight.
Uneventful main event
With all of the scoring in regulation happening within the first seven minutes of the game, there wasn’t a ton going on for the rest of it. With the Hurricanes leading the Coyotes 41-29 in shots on goal, the saves from both goalies last night was the only big excitement. The two goalies kept their teams in it to take it into OT. Both teams were taking a lot of shots, but there wasn’t anything going in.
“It was sloppy. It was so sloppy it was almost entertaining.”- Head Coach Dave Tippett on last night’s game.
Impressive penalty kill, but less admirable shootout
The Coyotes penalty kill has been written about a lot this year. With its inconsistency thus far, it seems to be on the up-and-up lately. The team went 13 for 15 on the PK on their road trip, and again killed off all three of the penalties they faced last night including a double minor. There is obvious improvement in that part of the teams game.
The Coyotes shootout has been less admirable. Since the incredible “exploding stick trick” by Shane Doan on December 27 the Coyotes have been 0-for-3 in shootout. Last night made their record 0-for-4. Tippett really changing things up in the shootout. He sent out Lucas Lessio, a young kid who has never participated in an NHL shootout, first to take the shot. His move was impressive, but he lost control of the puck. Sam Gagner was up next, going into last night he had a 16% shootout percentage…after last night he’s now at 14.3%. Antoine Vermette was the best of them, but even his 42.9% SO stat couldn’t lift him to get one in.
Smitty looking like…Smitty
There hasn’t been a whole lot of games this season that Mike Smith has been praised for his solid effort, but this game was certainly one for the books. Smith faced 41 shots from the ‘Canes, and had 39 saves overall.
In overtime, Smith made one of the best saves we’ve seen him make in a while; stretching out his leg and making a toe stop after he shifted to the wrong side. A brilliant save that ended up keeping them in the game. He made numerous saves that were vital to the team sticking things out and eventually churning out a point from the shootout. His clearing of the puck in all situations but one flukey goal at 1:03 of the first kept the game on track and on an even playing field.
Smith looked like the team has wanted and expected him to look this season, and judging by his past couple of games, he’s looking pretty solid.
“He’s played better lately, other than the Ottawa game where he wasn’t very good at all.”Said Dave Tippett about Mike Smith’s game. “He’s played well and tonight he got lots of shots and lots of chances, so hopefully were moving in the right direction.”
Young players getting ice time
There was a definite young presence out on the ice last night. Lessio for instance, who has split his time this season between the Coyotes and their AHL affiliate the Portland Pirates, was sent out during the teams crucial shootout. The younger players are getting more of a chance out on that ice. They are putting the people out there who are going to help out the team. When all is said and done, they are trying to find what works best for the team and gets them wins. The younger players seem to be producing, and everyone observing is impressed.
Coach Tippett said that he put Lessio out on that ice because he “thought he was going to score”. While he couldn’t bring to fruition his coaches wishes, he came awfully close.
“Our young players come in and they bring a lot of energy and they’re very eager to learn, but it puts a huge illness on your veteran players, teaching the younger players how you have to play, act, and think in the NHL.” Said Tippett. “We’ve been pretty good in that department and that’s going to be a key for us moving forward.”
Things to know
- Mikkel Boedker is still out recovering from his surgery to remove his spleen that took place on January 18th. He was in attendance at last nights game but a return has not been explicitly shared.
- Martin Hanzal has been benched for an injury for what seems like the 20th time this season. The team has missed his big presence and offensive power a lot this season. He seems to be missing another week with an upper body injury.
- The Coyotes face off against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night at Gila River Arena.