The Arizona Coyotes knew that it would be an offensive challenge when facing arguably the best goaltender in the league going into their Saturday night game against the Montreal Canadiens. Any team knows it’s going to be tough to score when facing Carey Price, but the Coyotes still made an effort that just barely fell short.
Smith on a streak
Mike Smith hasn’t had the best of seasons, and that’s a well-known fact around the league. His consistency hasn’t been something he’s gotten a pat on the back for. The past couple of games, though, Smith has looked similar to what he has been praised for in previous season. “Smitty is being Smitty” some might even say.
“Yeah, I think early in the game it seemed like they were just throwing everything on net,” said Smith about Montreals offense. “It was one of those games where you just had to be sharp and be ready for anything.”
Some vital saves to keep the Coyotes in the game prompted him to be referred to by his teammates (and opponents, i.e. Lars Eller) as their “best player on the ice”.
When the Coyotes started out the game slow, Mike Smith was the only reason that through the first 35 minutes of the game, it was scoreless. The Canadiens certainly had their chances, outshooting the ‘Yotes 27-14 after two periods and overall 35-28. Smith had 33 saves total.
“After the first period I thought we got going and made a game of it. We were right in the hockey game and had some chances, hit some posts and crossbars and stuff like that, so when you’re playing well as a goalie I think your team senses it and can let it go a little bit more.” Said Smith. “Unfortunately we couldn’t squeak one in, but I think we did a lot of things well, in the second and third period we got some chances and stuff to build on.”
Coyotes impeccable PK
The most commendable thing about the Coyotes game right now is their penalty kill. It’s been written about a lot this season, considering all of it’s up’s and down’s, but after going 4-for-4 on Thursday against the Canucks and 2-for-2 (including a 4-on-3) against Montreal’s power-forwards, it is evident that whatever they are doing, they’re doing right.
When you aren’t producing offensively, and you’re getting yourself in a situation that a very highly regarded team gets a one-man advantage, you need to be able to protect. The Coyotes did just that at the necessary times.
Poor execution leads to no production
So what went wrong for the Coyotes in this particular game? Well, I can tell you it’s not something that’s new. The Coyotes offense is a struggle, and if they don’t do something drastic in the offseason, it’s still going to be that way. The team doesn’t have any big goal-scoring machines, which is going to really affect any teams success.
The Coyotes need a player on the current roster to step up and get something going. Even though hopes of a playoff run are so far in the past, team morale is something that needs to be kept up. Winning games, or at least scoring goals isn’t impossible, but it needs to happen in order to even stay in games.
Arizona had many chances on Montreal, especially late in the game when they took Smith out of goal (ultimately leading to an open-net goal with just second left). Carey Price is hard to score on; it’s as easy as that. The amount of close calls though, is what really changes things. If they had started out the game at full-speed instead of at a lull, then the outcome probably would have been a little different. Playing for the full 60 minutes is going to really be a big factor in the outcome, and if you don’t you are going to probably be giving up more than you could ever come back to produce. Scrambling for a goal way too late in a game is not always the best option.
“I thought our execution was poor.” Said coach Dave Tippett. “Some of that is due to them, they were very determined and wanted to finish this trip off right and on the other side we didn’t execute as well as I thought we could’ve.”