The result was disappointing and there was little solace from Arizona Coyotes’ coach Dave Tippett afterwards. Then again, this may be expected from a hockey club laden with rookies and short on experience.
Tippett would be the first to admit that Thursday night’s 5-4 shootout loss to the Detroit Red Wings before 15,036 in Gila River Arena was sloppy and inconsistent. Despite the fact the Coyotes came from behind twice, including a short-handed goal to force this one into a shootout, the bottom line was another negative experience.
If Tippet expressed that feeling in his post-game remarks to the assembled media, players in the dressing room had a different take. A consensus could portend the way this team now approaches the task at hand but needs to learn how to finish off teams.
Scoring twice with 2:03 of the second period and a holding 2-1 lead, the Coyotes eventually let the Wings back in but without gaining a valuable lesson. On another level, the Coyotes have had several of these “learning curves” and probably too many. Given the experience young players gained this season and the forecast for improvement in the future, the loss to the Red Wings can serve as a significant blueprint.
“We’re learning how to play a full 60 minutes,” defenseman Jakob Chychrun, who picked up his seventh goal of the season to tie this game late in the third period, told The Hockey Writers. “We’re gaining more confidence and that can only help us going forward.”
If Chychrun, at 18-years-old, is in the developing stage, then veteran Radim Vrbata has been through numerous rebuilding processes and restructuring of hockey teams. After seeing the Coyotes tie their last two games late and force overtime, Vrbata was ready for a quick observation. Perhaps it’s too late in the season for a retreat of character-building, but Vrbata, who is having one of his best NHL seasons at age 35, can step away and take offer an explanation.
“The way we’ve come back in the recent games shows growth,” he told The Hockey Writers. “Overall, I think we’ve shown good character in the past few weeks and we continue to grow as a team.”
With about three weeks left in the season, this may be too late for such development. Given the inexperience and youth of several key players, Tippett’s learning curve may now be a small arc. Though Tippett has shown a great deal of patience with this team, he seems frustrated because the Coyotes are stuck at the bottom of the NHL pack and nowhere to go. Limping toward the finish line, this season can probably not end soon enough for Tippett. At the same time, players are playing for professional pride and several for contracts.
“We want to push right to the end,” Tippet pointed out to The Hockey Writers. “At this point, we want to push the entire group ahead.”
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.