Coyotes Strong on Effort, Short on Talent

At first glance, the rink seemed tilted in a very strange way.

Through the opening two periods, the visiting Chicago Blackhawks clearly demonstrated why they are among the elite of the NHL and why the Arizona Coyotes struggle to gain some degree of respectability

Plus, the shot total, 34-12 in favor of Chicago after two indicated the vast difference in talent levels

Then again, that’s why there is the draft selection and lottery picks.

In the end, the Hawks’ clear edge in talent and the Coyotes continuing education became deciding factors in Chicago’s 2-1 victory over Arizona before a standing room-only crowd 17,534 in the Gila River Arena Thursday night.

If the Hawks held an overwhelming edge in shots, in which the final total was 45-18, the Coyotes could only match the energy level in the building and not the Hawks’ edge in talent.

doomed by power play goals

As well, their inability to kill penalties has, effectively, doomed the Coyotes. Coming into the game Thursday, Arizona was 26th overall and 28th at home in killing penalties. Against the Hawks, they allowed two power play goals in seven, shorthanded attempts, including killing a double-minor to Kyle Chipchura for high-sticking at 12:39 of the second period.

Power play tallies by Andrew Shaw in the second and the game-winner from Brad Richards at 12:49 of the final period set the Coyotes down to their 13th loss in their last 14 games.

Mike Smith Coyotes
Mike Smith (Ric Tapia/Icon SMI)

“That’s a good hockey team over there and any time you gave them seven chances on the power play, you’re playing with fire,” said coach Dave Tippett. “I thought we competed hard, but we could have played smarter. That’s the frustrating part.”

If not for the brilliant play from goalie Mike Smith, the Hawks could have been close to record a double-digit game in goals. As things evolved, his play around and in the net kept the Hawks from running this one, like many others in this forgotten season, out of reach.

“(Mike) was great and gave us a chance to win this game,” said Tobias Rieder, who scored the Coyotes’ only goal just 4:53 into the game. “We took too many penalties, and you can’t make mistakes against a team like that.”

As this game evolved, it became apparent that a superior talent level clearly separated the Hawks and Coyotes like a vast ocean.

Arizona cannot compete, at least for right now, with the fire-power of Marion Hossa, Jonathan Toews, Brandon Saad, Patrick Sharp, Kris Versteeg and not to mention Patrick Kane, out until possibly deep in the playoffs. The speed and mobility of Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brent Seabrook and newly-acquired Kimmo Timonen from the Flyers on the blue line  is also above the Coyotes’ level, but new Arizona acquisitions could be closing the gap.

While recent Arizona efforts can be applauded for keeping pace in recent games with Anaheim, Vancouver, Montreal, Nashville  and now Chicago. Here’s where the teaching effort and results take center stage.

If Tippett is to gain favor as a teacher and educator, players must respond.

With several new additions after the trading deadline and prospects in the pipeline, Tippett is beginning to put players together for the future. Relative to defensive pairings, the coach has Oliver Ekman-Larsson paired with John Moore, acquired from the Rangers in the Keith Yandle deal, and Klas  Dahlbeck with Andrew Campbell.

Tippett preaches defense and goaltending as keys to winning and the way Smith has played in recent games and the development of the new defensive pairings, the Coyotes have no where to go but forward.

Follow Mark Brown on twitter, @journalist193