The Arizona Coyotes were back in action Saturday night, just one day removed from a 3-1 defeat to the Florida Panthers, and though it was 90s throwback night at Gila River Arena, the team was unable to channel the days of Jeremy Roenick, Keith Tkachuk, and Mike Gartner en route to a 5-3 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers. In fact, the Coyotes essentially captured the essence of the 1999 Lit song, ‘My Own Worst Enemy,’ after dooming themselves with penalties, turnovers, odd-man rushes.
The team has now lost five straight, and seven of its last eight.
There’s a lot to take in before Wednesday’s game against the New York Rangers, so let’s dive in to three takeaways from Saturday’s game.
Special Teams Were a Letdown Again
The Coyotes had an opportunity to build on a power-play goal scored in Friday’s loss, but instead they took too many penalties, allowed a goal while on the penalty kill, and failed to score with the man advantage. Moreover, Philadelphia’s power-play goal, scored just over one minute after the Flyers took a one-goal lead in the second period, was a back-breaker for Arizona.
Needless to say, a solid effort on the power play one night earlier did not carry through to Saturday’s contest.
“I did not like the urgency on our power play, we were looking for the easy solution too much, instead of digging in and taking control,” said head coach André Tourigny. “Give credit to the Flyers, they played well on the PK, they applied good pressure, and they got the big clearing at the key moments.”
It was yet another example of a game quickly snowballing out of control for the Coyotes just moments after they clawed back into it. They worked hard to tie the game at two midway through the second, only to find themselves stunningly down by two goals less than two minutes later.
“It seems like when they get one, they get another right after, and that’s something we need to tighten up on,” said forward Lawson Crouse, who chipped in a goal midway through the third period. “That’s two games in a row now. When you get behind you’re just chasing it, right, and then you’re forced to make extra plays.”
Gostisbehere and Dineen Stepped Up in Chychrun’s Absence
The Coyotes were without defenseman Jakob Chychrun, and despite his documented struggles this season, his absence was clearly a detriment to the rebuilding club. Rookie defenseman Cam Dineen, paired with Ilya Lyubushkin, stepped up for Arizona, and notched two assists in 14:37 Time on Ice (TOI). He now has three assists in nine career NHL games.
“Going into this one, I just wanted to play simple, do my job, because I knew I was coming in. Obviously [Chychrun] goes down, that’s our top D, top player on our team, and that’s not good,” Dineen said. “Coming in as a newer guy here, I’m just doing my job, keeping it simple, and luckily some guys made some plays out there for me.”
Tourigny said after the game that he and Dineen talked last week, and the 23-year-old, who had not played since Nov. 21 against the Los Angeles Kings, has embraced his role on the team.
“I’m really happy about his performance,” Tourigny said. “Sometimes it’s kind of a tough one, but he had the right attitude, he was positive, he knew, he said, ‘At some point it will happen, and I want to be ready,’ and tonight he showed it.”
Shayne Gostisbehere logged 26:39 TOI against his former team, chewing up a lot of minutes that Chychrun otherwise would have helped cover. Collectively, Tourigny was impressed with how the blue liners stepped up while missing their star player, and leader.
“”It’s, for sure, two games in two nights can make it even tougher, but I like the way Ghost and Mayo grabbed the challenge,” he said. “[Lyubushkin] was good as well, so I think our D, for the most part, they were good.”
The Coyotes Continue to Battle to the End
With all of the bad, there’s still some good for the team to focus on heading into their home matchup against the 18-5-3 Rangers on Wednesday. Trailing 5-2 in the third, Crouse brought the Coyotes to within two goals, but the team was unable to rally any further.
Still, both Crouse and Dineen spoke to how they never feel out of games, and certainly won’t go down without a fight.
“I think we believe in each other, believe in the process,” Dineen said. “When we get down, or things aren’t going our way, we stick to it, stick to our principles. Everyone’s really tight here.
“They’ve welcomed me in the past month or so, and it’s great, so in that aspect, I think everyone plays for each other.”
There are a few question marks heading into next week, and the injury bug seems to be biting again. In addition to Chychrun’s absence, forward Jay Beagle, who opened the scoring for the Coyotes just 39 seconds after Philadelphia scored to take a 1-0 lead in the first period, left the game after blocking a shot on the penalty kill. Though he returned briefly, he did not come back for the third period, and Tourigny was mum about his status after the game.
Even so, the team has already displayed its next-man-up mentality throughout the season, and with a big test looming against the Rangers on Wednesday, there will be ample opportunity for someone to step up and make an impact.
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A die-hard hockey fan in the desert, and proud Iowa State alum. Detroit Red Wings and Arizona Coyotes contributor for The Hockey Writers.