Occasionally, a team will run into a buzz-saw, and has little to do with their caliber of play.
Despite playing well in recent weeks, that’s what happened the Arizona Coyotes Saturday afternoon. The “buzz-saw” was New Jersey Devils’ goalie Cory Schneider, who turned away 37 shots, many from close range, and recorded a strong, 2-0 shut-out over the Coyotes before 11,745 in the Gila River Arena.
The defeat was the first for the Coyotes in regulation time since they dropped a 7-5 decision to the Blackhawks at home on Dec. 29. This also stopped an Arizona streak of getting at least one standing point in seven straight games. While the offense was shut out for only the second time this season (the other, 6-0 at Boston on Oct. 27), the Coyotes continued to generate chances.
With strong puck control and a solid emphasis on speed and skating, the Coyotes continue to elevate their game. Despite the loss to the Devils, Arizona remains in second place in the Pacific Division, and in control of its post-season destiny.
“Some nights pucks go in, and other nights, they don’t,” said Max Domi, who was credited with no shots on net, but shot wide several times. “We had lots of positives in this one and sometimes, yes, the goalie does come up big.”
That was especially the case with Schneider, who recorded his fourth shut-out of the season and the 21st of his NHL career. With the white-wash, Schneider’s mastery of the Coyotes continued. Coming into Saturday’s game, the 29-year-old native of Marblehead, Mass. had a 6-1-1 mark against Arizona, three shut-outs and a 0.99 goals against average.
“We dominated the game, but didn’t do enough to win,” lamented coach Dave Tippett afterward. “(Schneider) played well, but we need guys to bury the puck. We didn’t bury it.”
Perhaps the Coyotes best chance came with six minutes remaining in the game. Down by two, Domi, from the right face-off circle, appeared to beat Schneider, but his shot deflected off the cross bar and to the left corner. For the game, the Coyotes generated what Tippett said was 95 chances at the net, and that was the most of any game this season.
Still, Schneider came up big throughout the game and received helped from his teammates in blocking shots in front. The Coyotes power play, which was clicking at a 19.7 percentage clip (11th in the NHL) was 0-5 with the man advantage. In the second period alone, the Coyotes generated 15 shots on net, and that’s just behind their season best. That was 19 in the third period against the Islanders on Nov. 16.
“We didn’t have any trouble getting chances,” said defenseman Kevin Connauton, who skated in his first Arizona game since claimed off waivers from Columbus Jan. 13. “This is new for me, getting used to the players here and learning the structure. My job is to move the puck and create opportunities.”
Despite dropping their second straight including an overtime loss to the Red Wings this past Thursday night, the Coyotes can get healthy in a hurry. That’s because they take on the Buffalo Sabres in their next game and that’s this Monday night at home. Coming into play Saturday, the Sabres had 38 points and only the Blue Jackets, with 36, had fewer.
For the Devils game, Tippett dressed forward Stave Downie for the first time since Jan. 2. In all, Dowine’s appearance Saturday was just his fourth game since Dec. 17. For the season, Downie has three goals, three assists in 25 games.
Elsewhere … Defenseman Jarred Tinordi arrived at the Gila River Arena in the middle of the first period. As Montreal was getting ready to fly to St. Louis for Saturday’s game with the Blues, Tinordi was pulled aside and told he was traded to Arizona.
“This is the first time I’m going something like this,” he said of the deal. “Montreal was great in handling everything, and made me feel comfortable,”
Speaking with reporters in the Coyotes’ dressing room after the loss to the Devils, Tinordi said he was familiar with some of his new teammates. Having played with defenseman Connor Murphy on the USA junior team and Domi with London in the OHA, Tinordi said he’s ready for a new challenge.
“I feel good and not sure of how they plan to use me,” he said. “I want to play a shut-down game and I’m good in the PK (penalty killing) area. Whenever they call my name, I’ll be ready.”
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.