Here is the good news. We play our division and conference 44 more times. Meaning we can climb the ladder quickly. All starts with the defending champs the Kings, who are doing worse. Time to bury them.
Ok the Phoenix Coyotes are 1 – 3 early on. Time to give up? Pretty sure the boys in Brick Red and White haven’t quit. Here are some things to consider.
Game #1 Opening on the road against a good Dallas team with little training camp. In pre-season mode play pretty horrible defense and leave with a 4 – 3 loss. Shot 40 times but Lehtonen did enough to survive. What to come away with is the fact the power play showed life but turnovers and defensive lapses along with Smitty not being rock and roll ready did us in. Not worried about Smitty and Tippett will crack the whip. Once we get fine tuned those issues should not surface as much. Smitty seems to always start slow then get his stride. If healthy he is solid in net. So chalk it up as a pre-season loss that can’t really upset too many.
Game #2 Blackhawks are currently 4 – 0 and have played well in the early going. Impressive to win 3 on the road. That was a pretty crazy situation playing a back to back against a very good Chicago team. Again we get up 2 – 1 and then hit that lull where nothing seems to go right. Coyotes are scoring goals. I would be concerned if we were losing 1-0, 2-0, or 3-1. We have a defensive mind set that will return to form. Our concern has been the power play. Steve Sullivan is showing signs of picking up where Ray Whitney left off. New pieces are starting to familiarize themselves in game situations. Remember Sully and Lombo are late additions and it seems a lot of moving parts that game time will solidify the group. Tippett seems frustrated with the defensive effort. He has no time to coddle mistakes. Again hard to really be upset about the effort on this night.
Game #3 Smitty goes down and Barbs steps up. This looks more like the Coyotes we all fell in love with. Hockey the hard way. Jackets had a win and a OT loss coming in so they had confidence early on. This was a total team effort. The mistakes seemed to subside. A few days practice and review seemed to get the boys on track. Not a whole lot of negatives in a 5 – 1 win with your back up stepping in midway through the first period.
Game #4 Another back to back early on. A rested Sharks team opens up their barn and the pace is frenzied. All Sharks early on. Barbs in a back to back plays very well early on including thwarting a 5 on 3 disadvantage. Boom late goal makes it 1 -0 and could be the goal that breaks the Yotes spirits and leads to a lopsided tilt. Yet just the opposite as the resilient Yotes tie the game and pretty much dominate the 2nd period. After grinding to a 3 – 1 lead San Jose played aggressive hockey like a full court press in hoops. It just fell apart. Blame it on tired legs which usually surface in the 3rd period of a back to back or just more defensive lapses. Either way a road loss to the Sharks can’t be considered a horrible game. The circumstances have to be examined. No excuses mean it is a loss and adjustments have to be made.
Dave Tippett says “We need to get guys in there that can do the job.” In the end this was our back up goalie in a back to back in which we had a 3 – 1 lead mid 3rd period. It hurts not to come away with points. But if it lights a fire and starts a roll of wins including a very satisfying win Saturdays against the rival Kings. We may look back and think this is galvanizing by fire we witnessed early on.
Overall I still like the group. If Smith is healthy I believe this is a playoff team. Seeds mean NOTHING in the NHL. How many 8th seeds win the Cup?
Hang in there fans and know we will learn a lot Saturday and the next SIX games in a row at home. All with at least a day off in between and two days off leading to the Stars and the Blackhawks rematch.