The speed and energy finally arrived. At least, this was for one game, and decision-makers of the Arizona Coyotes hope the effort foreshows a successful path.
For a team mired in a six-game losing streak and displaying difficulty putting the puck in the net, a four-goal outburst against the Nashville Predators Saturday came as a welcomed relief. The issue now: can the Coyotes maintain this burst?
That may be easier said than done because Arizona departs the desert for a challenging four-game road trip. For now, the success of an impressive 4-1 win over Nashville before 13,820 in Gila River Arena shows promise.
There are two reasons for the optimism. First, the speed and puck management displayed against the Preds was missing for the vast majority of games. Plus, two of the four goals scored were delivered by players in which a solid transition season was expected. A third tally demonstrated the need for speed and the ability to force plays.
Big Goal Outburst
Goals from former first-round pick Brendan Perlini and second-round pick Laurent Dauphin were certainly appreciated. More importantly, the Coyotes picked up four goals in this one, and that’s the most they scored in a game since Arizona defeated the Avs in Denver, 4-2, on Nov. 8.
“You never see it coming, but you hope,” coach Dave Tippett told The Hockey Writers. “The young players have been moving in the right direction. All of them, from where they were for the first five games to where they are between 25 and 30 now, that’s just the evolution.”
Perhaps the biggest encouragement came from left wing Lawson Crouse, picked up from the Panthers in a trade this past offseason. Despite just one goal and one assist in his first 22 games with Arizona, Tippett left Crouse on the ice to grow. A significant step forward was realized Saturday on the first Arizona goal.
That’s when Crouse barreled down the slot, split the Nashville defense and found an open Alex Goligoski in the right face-off circle. After Crouse delivered a sharp pass to his stick, Goligoski fired his first goal of the season past Pekka Rinne, and the Coyotes were off to an early lead past the midway point of the opening period.
Perlini and Dauphin then picked up the torch and veteran Martin Hanzal closed the scoring just past the midway point of the final period.
“It’s always nice when you can split the defense and the puck just ends up on your stick,” Crouse said. “Obviously, we had a good start but it was kind of just building off that. I think it was an all-around effort. It feels good to get the full two points this game. In the past, we’ve been chipping in here or there, but that’s not good enough in this league. It was great to get the full two points (Saturday).”
How the Immediate Future Plays Out
For now, the Coyotes hope to build off the speed and acumen of younger players.
With Max Domi now on the injured reserved list, because of a facial injury suffered in a fight last Thursday night, Perlini, Crouse, Christian Dvorak, Anthony Duclair, Jakob Chychrun and Dauphin all have to pick up their teammates. That tough stretch of four straight now on the road begins Monday night in Pittsburgh and then carries into Detroit, Toronto and Minnesota. The Coyotes then come off this trip to face the Flames at home Dec. 19, and Tippett and others hope the trust and confidence placed in these players pays dividends.
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.