During the Arizona Coyotes’ recent winning streak, coach Dave Tippett offered a significant reason why his team was winning.
“We’re getting contributions from different guys every game,” he said recently. He did not add the critical element in winning, and that is discipline. While the Coyotes have demonstrated a resiliency to come back in recent games, they also learned what Tippett called “a good lesson” Thursday night. The reality of playing a full 60 minutes of hockey at a high level and with discipline cost the Coyotes one point in the standings and one win. As the second half of the season transpires, both could be critical.
After dominating the visiting Detroit Red Wings for two periods and holding a two goal late in the final period, the structure and control of the Coyotes’ game quickly disappeared. Two critical penalties allowed the Wings to generate a needed offense. The result was power play goals from Pavel Datsyuk and Gustav Nyquist 2:30 apart to tie this one. Then, Danny Dekeyser converted a pass from Dylan Larkin into his fourth goal of the season at 2:08 of the extra session, and the Wings skated off with 3-2 overtime victory before 12,014 in the Gila River Arena.
The loss ended the Coyotes’ winning streak at four and provided an unwelcomed lesson. Had they been able to pull this out, the five-game winning would have been their longest since Oct. 26 – Nov. 5, 2013.
“You can’t take penalties in a game like this,” Tippett said afterward. “This will be a good lesson that you can’t put yourself in that position.”
One element of Arizona’s game which has been notable from efforts earlier this season is the sudden development of team speed. That was evident in shutting out Nashville at home last Saturday, but Arizona seem to skate in a rut in defeating the Oilers this past Tuesday night.
In an effort which was nearly “night and day” from the endeavor against Edmonton, the Coyotes seemed to affix rockets to their skates and took play most of the night. For the first two periods, the Coyotes clearly had control, and showed what speed and order can do to the opposition. The result could have been a swift dispatch of the Wings, but instead, as captain Shane Doan said after the game, “we took our foot off the gas.”
Penalty Killing Needs To Be Better
In quick order, Antoine Vermette went off for roughing, which Tippett called a soft penalty. That’s when Datsyuk’s 20-foot wrist shot from the slot beat goaltender Louis Domingue at 11:50 of the final period.
As quickly as Vermette came out of the penalty box, he was replaced by Anthony Duclair, who hooked Tomas Jurco along the right boards at 13:05. Nyquist was then credited for the tying goal, but Tippett challenged the call. The Arizona coach claimed the stick of Justin Abdelkader hooked into Domingue’s pads and prevented the goalie from sliding across the crease. The challenge was over-ruled, and the Wings tied the game with under 7 minutes to play.
“I thought we played well, and it’s unfortunate the result did not go our way,” said Domingue. “They’re a good team, and it’s hard to shut them down on the power play.”
Conversely, the Coyotes discipline, short-handed as well as at full strength, needs to be better. Coming into the game and with the man dis-advantage, the Coyotes were 25th in the league and 28th at home. There was little doubt, Tippett said, that segment of their game needs a hard look.
“Shots have to be blocked,” he said. “Plus, the goalie has to make saves. Not enough is being done. That’s a part of our game we need to improve.”
As if air was let out of a balloon, the Coyotes could be deflated. After this kind of game, their lack of attention and discipline at critical times should be a calling card. Then again, the reaction of this young hockey club will test both Tippett’s patience and his team’s ability to learn.
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.