Through the opening three games, the start has been frightening.
In each contest, the Arizona Coyotes have allowed early goals and that put the team in an immediate state of concern.
Despite squeezing out a 7-4 victory against the Edmonton Oilers Wednesday night before 11,648 in Gila River Arena, the Coyotes escaped with win disguised as a potential defeat. Essentially, that was the way coach Dave Tippett viewed the proceedings and called the effort, “a sloppy game and that was from our standpoint.”
While the win was high-lighted by Mikkel Boedker’s first career hat trick, the defense in general and goalie Mike Smith in particular, failed to gain Tippett’s attention. In the end, the coach seemed to go out of this way and repeated to reporters, during his post-game comments, that the Coyotes were not in command.
When Smith surrendered a goal to Taylor Hall just 1:25 into the game, that represented the third straight contest which Arizona fell behind quickly.
“Really, I don’t know why that’s happening,” said Rob Klinkhammer, who picked up his first goal of the season early in the second period. “It’s certainly deflating on the bench what that happens and we have to address this pretty quickly.”
While Boedker’s three-goal effort was visible on the marquee, the Coyotes inability to play a consistent, rugged 60 minutes compromised their 2-1 start. Against the Oilers, they fell behind on Hall’s tally in less than 90 second in the game. When defenseman Mark Fayne’s goal late in the first period tied the score, the Coyotes proceeded to jump into the lead with two goals 1:09 apart early in the second.
Still, the Oilers were able to net four against Smith, who has given up 10 goals in his first two games.
“I thought Mike was okay in the first period and made some progress,” Tippett added. “If you ask him about the entire game, I’m sure he wasn’t happy.”
All of which says something for the opening three games.
Through their first victory of the season, an overtime victory last Saturday over the defending Stanley Cup champions Kings, Tippett said the team needs to replicate their effort. If the first three game are bookends, the opening day loss to Winnipeg and the less-than convincing effort against the Oilers Wednesday night, the Coyotes sandwiched a strong effort in the middle.
Not acceptable, Tippett seemed to say.
“What we did against L. A. needs to happen every night,” he said. “We need to play with that kind of energy and commitment every night.”
first Hat Trick
With five goals in his first three games, Boedker is the first player since the franchise relocated to Phoenix for the 1996-97 season to pick up that production. Before hitting the empty net at 19:33 of the third period, he tied Mike Gartner with four goals in the first three games of the season.
“I’m just trying to be the best I can be,” he said. “Yes, maturity is important and you get a little order, you also get a little wiser. Confidence is a big thing and great linemates (with Shane Doan and Antoine Vermette) are a good part of my game.”
In addition to the three goals, Boedker assisted on defenseman Connor Murphy’s first goal of the season early in the second period. The four points on the night represents a career high for the native of Brondby, Denmark. Boedker’s previous best was a three-point effort on December, 3, 2013 against the Oilers.
“We’re counting on (Boedker) to have a big year, and he’s off to a good start,” said Tippett. “When he gets opportunities, he capitalizes on them and that what he did (Wednesday night).”
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.