One look at the Arizona Coyotes’ stats offers clues for their present condition.
Since the commencement of the season, the optimism from having more speed and experience in the line-up has been, for the moment, dashed.
Heading into Saturday’s home game against the Boston Bruins, the Coyotes were tied with the Hurricanes for the worst record in the league. On the same page, the Coyotes were 27th in the league on the power play, and 26th at killing penalties. Only four players, Tobias Rieder, Radim Vrbata, Christian Dvorak and Jordan Martinook had a plus in the plus-minor ledger, and the highest is a plus-two.
Lack of production from special teams also represented a key reason for the current state of affairs.
Less Than Three Goals per Game
After dropping a 2-1 decision to the Boston Bruins before 16,531 Saturday night at Gila River Arena, the Coyotes have scored 38 goals in their opening 14 games. That’s an average of 2.7 goals per game. Though defenseman Michael Stone said after the game, “we’re not panicking,” there is a legitimate reason for concern.
If there is one consolation, the Coyotes are tied with the Flames, Ducks and Jets for the most short-handed goals. Brad Richardson has scored two, and Laurent Dauphin has the other one. While promising, this small category is of little solace.
While the Coyotes’ special teams contingent went 1-for-3 with the man advantage against Boston and produced the only goal of the game on a Vrbata power play goal mid-way through the final period, the bigger concern is simply putting the puck in the net.
With one goal against Boston, the Coyotes scored more than three goals in a game only four times so far. They tallied four in each of their opening two games, and then only twice in the next 12 games.
“We’re not getting ‘dirty goals,’ and about 80 percent of goals scored in this league are dirty goals,” center Jordan Martinook told The Hockey Writers after the game. “Plus, we’re playing about 50 minutes a game, and in this league, that’s not good enough.”
The anemic scoring effort against Boston exacerbated the team’s struggles because the Coyotes faced one the hottest goalies in the league. In limiting Arizona to that one goal, Tuukka Rask lowered his league-best 1.76 GA (going into the game).
Deep into the third period, Rask was charging toward his 33rd career shutout. Then, Vrbata slid the puck just inside the right post, and the 29-year-old goaltender lost his shutout bid. After white-washing the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 7, the shutout moved Rask, a native of Savonlinna, Finland, past Tim Thomas and into sole possession of third place on the club’s all-time list. The weak Arizona offense may have padded Rask’s numbers, but the issues are deeper than that.
“Our execution was poor,” said Coyotes coach Dave Tippett. “The execution has to be better, and need to have execution from key players. There’s a decent effort from several players, but these guys have to do more with their effort.”
At his point, the results are disconcerting. Though the spirit remains strong, especially among veteran players, several, Tippett hinted, need to pick up their game.
Numbers Tell the Story
For starters, Anthony Duclair has one goal and three points in the opening 14 games and Max Domi has scored one goal in the same. Though Domi leads the team with 10 assists, increased goal production would jump-start the team.
Also, captain Shane Doan, who led the Coyotes in scoring last season, has one goal through 14 games, while defenseman Alex Goligoski, signed as a high-profile free agent, has yet to score, has assisted on only six goals and is minus-7.
About the only positive words that came from Tippett after losing to the Bruins was his desire to get center Martin Hanzal (lower back injury) and goalie Mike Smith (knee injury) back for Wednesday’s game in Calgary.
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.