(photo: Dinur Blum)
Going into the Arizona Coyotes game against the San Jose Sharks, the team dynamic was already exponentially different. With the recent news that Martin Hanzal would most likely be out for the rest of the season due to back surgery being required, things were changing. This isn’t the only long term, key-player loss, since forward Mikkel Boedker has been out since January 18th due to surgery on a ruptured spleen. His return does not have a timetable yet.
Young guys get their time to shine
Young players are getting their time out on that ice, and head coach Dave Tippett was confident in saying that the one’s who are out there performing like they should be are going to hit the ice, and the one’s who are taking the opportunity for granted don’t need to have a spot on the team. With AHL call up’s and down’s, there has been a steady rotation of young guys getting a chance in the spotlight. Those guys, like Tobias Rieder, have stuck around and been valuable, while others have not stayed for so long. With the trade deadline around the corner, who knows if the Coyotes will do something big, or if the players they have are going to be it until the end of the season.
The curse on home ice
The Coyotes have had a lot of momentum in games on the road, but they haven’t been able to get a win at home since January 8th. A huge shootout win against the Chicago Blackhawks on February 9th really just showed how the team seemed to be on the up-and-up. Unfortunately, their home record continued to worsen. The 4-2 loss to the Sharks was another sad notch in the loss category.
The Coyotes previously had a bad streak earlier in the season, breaking club records for consecutive games lost at home. Not so good for the ‘Yotes.
Arcobello finds his place
Mark Arcobello, the Coyotes most recent acquisition from the Pittsburgh Penguins, really made himself known in his first game with the club. He’s had quite a season so far; becoming only the third player in NHL history to play for four different teams in one season (Edmonton, Nashville, Pittsburgh).
Arcobello started off the scoring for the night in the first period, but his efforts didn’t stop there. He showed a lot of heart out on that ice during the game, and he seemed to be a strong player to add to the roster. The first several periods seemed to be filled with energy for him but just as the lead died out, it seemed as though his vigor did also.
“Yeah I got a fortunate bounce, Stoner (Michael Stone) made a good play bumping the puck back and we went and transitioned,” said Arcobello on his goal. “I was lucky enough to score there and obviously it felt good to get that one out of the way right away.”
Smitty being Smitty
Going into the San Jose game, Mike Smith had a save percentage of .934 in 8 games played since the All-Star Break. He has been a completely different goaltender since the break, and he has been a huge asset to the team. His season got off to a horrible start, but he’s redeemed himself in big games such as their recent bout with the Blackhawks (they lost 6-1 just a few short weeks ago on the same ice).
Smith had some incredible (and vital) saves in the game, but eventually his efforts were not enough. Bottom line is that you need to have a defense that isn’t making mistakes, and even if they are bad breaks and they get caught up in the wrong area, it is costing them goals and ultimately games.
Leads are meant to be built upon
How do you miss out on churning out a win after a 2-0 lead, you ask?
Well, this has been a recurring curse all season: the Coyotes get the lead, but it doesn’t go any further than that. early goals, and nothing happening for their benefit at the end. While the offense is on a streak of actually producing, they get stuck at around the first period, and nothing bounces their way. The shots are there, but the cashing in on the opportunities seem to be inadequate.
You either protect your lead with the help of some goals, or you make sure that your defense and goaltending is flawless. If you lack in any of these areas, the game is going to slip right through your fingers. This is exactly what happened to the Coyotes.
A 2-0 lead is almost a jinx on the team. In the majority of similar situations this season, that lead can not be increased. The deficit between the teams lessens, and they find themselves stuck, trailing the game by a goal and not being able to generate the offense that they need to get the goals in the critical situations.
Thoughts from the coach:
“We had a lead, but in the first period they had two breakaways that Smitty (Mike Smith) made some great saves on… It was a pretty even game all the way through but I’d like to see us capitalize on a couple more chances. I thought we battled hard but we just couldn’t come up with that next goal we needed.”
Things to know:
- Coyotes play the New York Rangers at home on February 14th at 6 pm for the first time this season.
- Coyotes will be back to play Tampa Bay Saturday, February 21st before heading off to face the Eastern conference