In this forgettable season, there have been several factors leading to the decline of the Arizona Coyotes.
Too many giveaways in inopportune times and poor puck management are the main culprits. Add to this list the reality of slow starts. In a majority of games this season, the Coyotes fell behind quickly and struggled to compensate.
That recurring pattern transpired again Thursday night at home.
Allowing the visiting Montreal Canadiens to jump out to an early two-goal lead, the Coyotes again grappled to remain in the game. Despite a comeback and actually gaining a lead, the Coyotes continue to decline. Against Montreal, they displayed similar maladies which characterized their season. The latest defeat, a 5-4 overtime loss to the Habs at home Thursday night before 14,098 in Gila River Arena, proved the Coyotes are not ready for prime time.
A Fast Start Needed
In their last home game, Feb. 2 against Chicago, the Coyotes fell behind 3-0 after the first period. Against Montreal, two goals in the opening session helped the Coyotes dig a deep hole. So anemic was the Coyotes’ offense in response, Arizona managed only three shots on net for the opening 15 minutes of this game.
Despite gaining a one-goal lead after two periods, the Coyotes let the Canadiens back and took a low energy level to new heights.
“Let’s be honest, we didn’t deserve that lead,” Arizona coach Dave Tippett told The Hockey Writers. “Our effort was not even close. We knew Montreal would be a desperate team, and we talked about that. We simply did not react.”
Defenseman Alex Goligoski took Tippett’s words to another level. Goligoski’s short-handed goal late in the second period gave the Coyotes a 3-2 lead, but the overall play of his team was far from acceptable.
“This is just about being professional,” he said. “Good teams know how to play with a lead. Overall, I thought we didn’t have any momentum throughout the game.”
Words coming from the Coyotes dressing room, these days, sound like a broken record. Empty phrases like, ”we need to get better,” and “there’s time to work on things,” ring hollow. With two months remaining in the season, the time is clearly past for these kinds of excuses.
What Tippett will try and do over the Coyotes’ remaining 30 games is sustain some kind of cohesion. Whether that means a quicker start to games, the ability to take care of the puck or generate enough scoring chances through solid fore-checking, the burden remains on the players.
The Future Does Not Look Promising
Immediately, players should grasp the moment. Futile starts like the recent home games against Chicago and Montreal will only dig a deeper abyss.
“We can’t let down during any part of the game,” said Christian Dvorak, who chipped with his first two-goal, NHL game against the Canadiens. “We need to get off to a good start and be ready when the puck drops.”
These days for the Coyotes, that’s easier said than done.
Mark Brown is a former sports editor for daily newspapers in the Philadelphia and Cincinnati markets. He was named Best Sports Columnist, honorable mention 2004 by the Associated Press Society of Ohio. He is a contributor to major daily newspapers, including the Chicago Sun Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Milwaukee Journal, Arizona Republic, Nashville Tennessean and the Associated Press. He was a Featured Columnist for bleacherreport.com and covered the Arizona Coyotes.