For a team which dropped six of their first eight games this season, there should be reason for concern.
That’s the predicament facing the Arizona Coyotes, but as rationalizations are put forward, there’s a ton of hockey ahead. As the principals currently recognize, games in October mean as much as those encounters during the stretch drive. Now, the Coyotes, by virtue of a 3-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche before 13,533 in Gila River Arena Saturday, appear at a loss to shake the expanding cobwebs.
After Saturday’s defeat to the Avs, there did not appear much concern surrounding the Coyotes’ current fate. Post-game discussion centered on the effectiveness or lack thereof, of the penalty killing effort and coach Dave Tippett talked about his team “not having much of a push.”
Problems Between the Pipes
Perhaps the real concern should emulate from the goal keeper. With starter Mike Smith out since the second game of the season in Ottawa with an injured right knee, Louis Domingue answered the call. After his season mark fell to 1-5 on Saturday, the demand of playing a full 60-minutes was evident.
With the Avs ahead 2-1 mid-way through the final period, Domingue had a lapse that’s dreadful to all goalies. A 30-foot shot from Matt Duchene tipped off Domingue’s glove and into the net for a two-goal Colorado lead with just over eight minutes to play. If a goalie is supposed to keep his team in the game at that critical part, that kind of a soft goal is poison.
“On (Duchene’s) goal, I saw it all the way,” Domingue told The Hockey Writers afterward. “That’s a save I have to make. The way the game is played today in the NHL, you rely on your goalie. I can’t give up three goals a game.”
From the coach’s vantage, Tippett indicated, “Louie would like to have that back.” Beyond the ability of Domingue, or any goalie in Sedona Red, the issues run deeper.
Of the six losses thus far, the Coyotes dropped three by one goal. Plus, the special teams were not doing the job. Coming into the Colorado game, the Coyotes were tied for 26th in the league in penalty killing and 25th in power play efficiency.
Off a less than productive six-game road trip (1-5-0) , Tippett promised a few practices to sort out personnel and populate the special teams units.
For now, the Coyotes must find ways to gain an edge in those one-goal games.
“We need to find a way to score in tough games,” said Radim Vrbata, who put the Coyotes on the board with his fourth of the season late in the first period. “I thought we moved the puck on the power play as good as have all season. Not sure why we’re not scoring more. I don’t know whether it’s execution or luck, I don’t know.”
For now, a few days of practice to sort out the maladies is in order. Coming back, the Coyotes have two more on this home stand with San Jose (Tuesday night) and Nashville (Thursday night). If the Coyotes do not adequately address the issues of more concentrated play from their goalie and a method to score goals in critical situations, the season could be long and difficult in the desert.
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.