After narrowly picking up a win in Game 3 of their Stanley Cup playoffs first-round series against the Colorado Avalanche, the Arizona Coyotes entered Game 4 on Monday with an opportunity to get things all tied up at two games apiece.
Instead, they were completely and utterly dominated, losing 7-1 to fall behind three games to one in the series. They’re now on the brink of elimination, and face a Grand Canyon-sized hole to climb out of against an Avalanche team which has been better in arguably every aspect of hockey throughout the course of these four games.
A Shameful Performance
Monday’s performance was the Coyotes’ worst playoff loss since they relocated to Arizona in 1996. They’d never before lost a playoff game by six goals – their previous “record” for worst playoff defeat came in the 2010 Western Conference Quarterfinals, when the Detroit Red Wings handed the then-Phoenix Coyotes a 6-1 loss on home ice in Game 7.
We have to go back to the Winnipeg days to find the last time this franchise lost a playoff game by six goals – the most recent occurrence was an 8-2 shellacking at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks in Game 5 of the 1992 Smythe Division Semifinals. The Jets, who had been up 3-1 after four games, followed up the aforementioned Game 5 performance with 8-3 and 5-0 defeats in Games 6 and 7 en route to a series loss in which they were outscored 21-5 over the final 180 minutes.
Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet obviously wasn’t thrilled with his team’s effort, or lack thereof, in Game 4, and had this to say during his post-game media availability:
The phrases “men against boys” and “total debacle” aren’t quite what you want to hear from the head coach of a National Hockey League team after a Stanley Cup playoff game, nor do you want to hear a coach at any level suggest that some players looked like they’d never played hockey before.
What Went Wrong?
Instead of listing out what went wrong for the Coyotes on Monday, it might be shorter to list the things that went right. They finally got a power-play goal (from Jakob Chychrun) in this series, but it came when the game was already well out of reach at 4-0. Outside of that, Tocchet was right on in describing this game as a total debacle.
The defense was porous, as they surrendered high-danger chances all afternoon to a Colorado team that clearly doesn’t need any extra help to light up the scoreboard.
The offense, for the second time in this series, failed to generate more than 15 shots on goal and looked out of sorts all afternoon.
The penalty kill, which had done a decent job through the first three games of this series, surrendered three power-play goals on seven chances.
Goaltender Darcy Kuemper, who has easily been Arizona’s best player in the postseason, was unable to stop the Colorado onslaught as he’d done previously in Games 1 and 3, allowing 4 goals on 22 shots through the first 40 minutes of play. Backup Antti Raanta took over for the third period after what surely was a mercy pull for Kuemper, and he was subsequently beaten on three of the eight shots he faced over the final 20 minutes.
There were no bright spots in this game. No positive takeaways. No moral victories.
The Coyotes were absolutely pummeled by the Avalanche on Monday, and the teams both looked every bit the part of what the pundits said they were before the series. Colorado looked like a serious Stanley Cup contender, while Arizona looked like a team that would have been better off losing in the qualifying round and taking their chances in the Alexis Lafreniere sweepstakes.
The Coyotes will have a day off to recover from the Game 4 beating before playing Game 5 on Wednesday afternoon at 3:30 P.M. local time in Edmonton (2:30 P.M. in Arizona). The game will be televised nationally in the United States on the NBC Sports Network and NHL Network, in Canada on Sportsnet, and locally in Phoenix on Fox Sports Arizona.
Make sure you tune in, folks. You don’t want to miss what likely will be the Coyotes’ season finale, as well as Taylor Hall’s possible final game in an Arizona sweater.
A lifelong Phoenix resident, Louis has been following hockey since 2010, has covered the Arizona Coyotes since 2015, and has been playing hockey since 2020. So far, Louis has visited eight NHL cities, and one of his personal goals is to eventually make it to all 31 NHL arenas. For any questions or concerns, contact the writer via Twitter @LouisPannone.